by Wendy Webb
Daughters of the Lake is, like all Wendy Webb’s books, set on the shores of Lake Superior. And once again she has produced a book that kept me enthralled from the first sentence to the last. It seems that this woman can do no wrong.
The story itself spans a hundred years, unravelling a bond between two very different women.
When Kate Granger returns to her home town following the break up of her marriage, she is already experiencing strangely clear and very disturbing dreams. But when a body is discovered on the shore close to her parent’s house, the dreams become a reality.
Kate soon finds herself a suspect in a murder case. To clear her head she visits her cousin at the old family home in Wharton. But rather than provide comfort, the house itself, as well as the mysterious woman in her dreams, seem to be using Kate to tell their own stories.
With some interesting twists and a lot of supernatural intervention, Kate begins to unravel the mystery, but not before some sinister interventions and a discovery that will surprise her whole family.
One again Wendy Webb has woven a chilling tale of death, deceipt, love and fear. I enjoy the little twists and turns of the plot and the wonderful characters she creates. Her love of the Great Lakes is clear as is her mastery of Gothic Horror.
A really great read from an author who it seems can do no wrong. Bring on the next one…
by Faith Martin
DI Hillary Greene is back for her second outing, clearing up the streets of Oxford. And a damn fine job she is doing of it.
This time we find DI Green still suffering from the aftermath of the investigation into her deceased husband’s criminal activities. But she is well respected within the station and determined to remove any stain on her reputation.
A pretty French student has been found dead in her room at an exclusive Oxford College. As DI Greene arrives it appears to be a simple case of an accidental drug overdose. But as the investigation begins, Hillary’s inscrutable instinct tells her that there is more to the case than first thought.
As the evidence comes in, Hillary and her team realise they are dealing with a clever but brutal murder. She is relentless in her search for the truth and slowly begins to uncover a web os=f secrets hidden beneath the college’s veneer of respectability. In the end, it is a chance remark by a colleague that opens the case up and ultimately reveals the truth behind the cruel murder of a promising young girl.
Murder at the University has everything you would expect, and want, from a detective story. There are plenty of plot twists and clues, but also some great characters, particularly Di Hillary Greene herself. What you won’t find here are in-depth discussions about police procedure or rambling descriptions of people and places. The narrative is fast-paced and focused. Whilst we discover a lot about the characters as the story progresses, it is no more than necessary to drive the plot and set the scene for future books.
Faith Martin has a simple but direct way of writing. The plot has plenty of twists and turns and her characters are diverse and believable. Their relationships are as much a part of the story as the investigation itself.
I for one am pleased to have been introduced to the world of Hillary Greene and am looking forward to joining her on more adventures in the future.
by Arthur C Clarke
Arthur C Clarks is one of the most prolific and well respected Science Fiction writer of his generation. And one of the great things about Clarke is that his works stand up even now. First published in 1974, Rendezvous With Rama has become a classic and with good reason.
I first read this book when I was in school in the mid-1970s. It was the first full-length Science Fiction novel I had read and I was awed by the grandeur of the story and the science it portrayed. I have read the book several times since and still find the story, characters and the strange alien world of Rama as captivating as the first time.
Rama is the name given to the enigmatic object scientists discover passing through the solar system. Its trajectory takes it past Venus and Mercury towards the Sun. There is only one ship capable of rendezvousing with the craft, Endeavour. Commander Norton and his crew find themselves the centre of political and media attention as they begin their adventure aboard the alien craft.
What they discover raises more questions than answers, as you might expect. How could we possibly understand the technology of a race capable of building a craft capable of spanning the vastness of interstellar space?
The narrative switches between the science of the expedition on Rama and the political intrigue and plotting back on Earth.
As you would expect from Arthur C Clarke, the science is real and believable, combined with great storytelling. Re-reading the book has reminded me just how good a writer Clarke is.
Originally a stand-alone story Clarke later went on to write a further 3 Rama novels. He had not intended to, but pressure from fans and his publishers soon won out.
Rendezvous With Rama is a SciFi classic for good reason. It remains one of my favourite books and one I am sure I will read again.
“Paper” by John McCabe
by John McCabe
Paper was not my first McCabe book, which is just as well. At least I know he can do much better.
The issue I had with this particular book is that it seems to go nowhere and takes its time getting there. I was over halfway through before even a semblance of a plot began to emerge. Even then it was a bit think on the ground. You can get away with a lack of plot if the characters and narrative can make up for it. But in this case, they don’t.
The story centres around scientist Dr Darren White and his dream of making an earth-shattering discovery. As the book progresses Dr White begins to make some progress but at the expense of his career and relationships. To be honest, I found I didn’t really care if he succeeded or not. McCabe failed to make his lead character even remotely likeable.
I found the book difficult to finish and was relieved when it was.
I can’t recommend this particular book, but I know from having previously read “Big Spender” I know that McCabe can be funny and can be an excellent storyteller. I won’t let this stop me reading more.
by Michael Crichton
Michael Crichton is one of the most respected writers in his field. Many of his books have become essential reading and a large number have made it to the silver screen. His work is always imaginative and pushes real science to the limited. Sphere is just such a book.
The story is set deep below the South Pacific where a huge vessel has been discovered resting on the ocean floor. A team of specialists is hastily assembled and shipped out in great secrecy. Joining a naval crew the scientists are faced with attempting to solve a perplexing riddle whilst confined in the hostile environment a thousand feel below the ocean surface.
What the crew find inside the vessel reveals more mysteries than they had bargained for. Things begin to take a turn for the worse when a storm forces the surface support ships away, leaving the scientists and their navy crew very much isolated. This is quickly followed by a series of events that leave most of them dead and the survivors fighting for their lives against an unknown and unseen adversary.
Whilst I enjoyed the book, particularly the way it looks at the frailty of the human psyche, it did not hold my attention as much as I had expected.
Like Crichton’s other works, Sphere deals with cutting edge science pitted against human frailties. It has an interesting plot and intriguing characters but it does not have the same vital spark that made the likes of The Andromeda Strain and Congo such compelling reads.
by Jo Thomas
It is 18 years since fiery red-head Nell fell in love on and with the mountains of Crete. Now, with her daughter working in London and her job on hold due to a fire, Nell decides it is time to return. Can she find and rekindle her teenage romance? Will Stelios even still be there and if he is, will he want to see her, let alone still love her?
From the moment she arrives on the island it is clear that a lot has changed over the intervening years. She has signed up as a volunteer to help on a honey farm situated in the mountains. She immediately throws herself into helping restore the farm to its former glory.
It soon becomes clear that beneath the idyllic setting there is something vaguely sinister going on. And what about the mysterious and enigmatic neighbour Georgios? What is his role in the goings-on up in the mountains?
Nell soon learns not only the truth behind these things but also about what really happened when she fled the island all those years ago.
The Honey Farm On The Hill is a perfect holiday read. It has the inevitable romance mixed with a little mystery and adventure, something that Jo Thomas always manages to weave into her books. Her passion for food is apparent as she tells us all about Greek herbs and honey.
If I have one criticism it would be the all too predictable ending. I felt that the story and it’sm characters deserved something a little less formulaic. I would have prefered a less clinical and Austenesque, but that is just personal preference. It is a light, easy read that is guaranteed to entertain.
by Rob Boffard
The concept of being cast adrift, out of reach of help and fighting for survival is a recurring scenario repeated in many good books and films. As the word itself suggests, these stories are generally confined to the dramas set in the sea, usually under attack from an unknown or unseen assailant. In this case, though, the ship in question is a small leisure shuttle taking its passengers to view the Horsehead Nebula – it’s the best view the Galaxy according to the tourist literature.
When they board the rather shabby and far from state-of-the-art Red Panda for their short excursion into space, those on board have no idea that they’re lives, and the lives of thousands of others, are about to change forever.
It was supposed to be a routine trip. A short journey away from the sprawling Sigma Station, a quick look at the Nebula, then back in time for tea. But everything changes when a mysterious ship appears seemingly from nowhere and, as they watch, destroys the station and everyone on it. With no idea who is behind the attack or why, the passengers and crew find themselves struggling to avoid detection. They have no weapons, very little food or water, and no way to escape.
Adrift is a tense drama that keeps the reader in suspense from beginning to end. The story is driven by some interesting characters, most of whom have secrets that pose as much of a threat to the group’s survival as the mysterious enemy now stalking them.
Each twist of the plot provides insight into who the individuals are. There are heroism and betrayal in equal measure from unexpected places in this well-crafted adventure. Rob Boffard has once again proven that he is a great storyteller and a good observer of human nature.
For those who have already read his Out Earth trilogy, Adrift offers more of the same and is a must. If you haven’t yet read his work then this is as good a place to start as any. You will not be disappointed if you are looking for drama, adventure and some science fiction.
by Victoria Hislop
When this book was passed on to me I was told simply that I would love it. Reading the synopsis, I wasn’t so sure, but then you can’t always judge a book but it’s cover.
The story begins when Alexis Fielding, holidaying on Crete with her boyfriend, takes time out to visit the village of Plaska to see an old friend of her mother’s. Alexis’ mother, Sophie, was born on the island but has kept her past a closely guarded secret, even from her daughter. Alexis soon begins to learn the truth behind her connections to not only Crete but also the former leper colony of Spinalonga.
In the spring of 1939, the Petrakis family are about to be torn apart when much-loved schoolteacher and beloved mother of Maria and Anna, Elenia, is forced to leave her home and take the one-way journey to Spinalonga.
The inhabitants of Spinalonga live an isolated and peaceful existence, but nothing can hide the toll that mankind’s oldest disease can take on those who unfortunately contract it. Whilst the family are spared the worst of Elenia’s suffering, they soon face new troubles when your Maria is diagnosed with leprosy.
Anna is now married into a wealthy family but there are problems brewing and their father, Giorgis doesn’t know how to health either of his daughters.
The outbreak of war brings research into a cure for leprosy to a halt, prolonging the suffering of those living on Spinalonga.
The Island is a story of love, heartbreak, prejudice and determination. It challenged my preconceptions about leprosy and introduced me to the history and people of Crete. It is entertaining as well as thought-provoking. I loved the characters and their intricately woven lives.
by Mary Jane Baker
One of the great pleasures of reading is to escape the trials and tribulations of everyday life and lose yourself in a simple and more predictable one.
Mary Jane Baker delivers just that in A Bicycle Made For Two. It is a story set in the romantic surroundings of the Yorkshire Dales – where else would you expect to find a medieval-themed restaurant run by an Italian family, with the owners preparing to organise a bicycle race?
Sounds far fetched I know, but it works surprisingly well. The restaurant gives the story a unique base and an excuse for some interesting one-liners.
A chance meeting between Lorna Donati (who runs the restaurant with her brother Tom) and professional cyclist Stuart McLean sparks a series of events with an inevitable conclusion. Like all good romances, whilst the ultimate destination may be predictable, the journey itself is not.
Lorna finds herself spearheading a campaign to bring the Grand Départ route through their small village. Her search for a unique selling point leads her and her friends to start on a second campaign to re-open a disused viaduct.
Whilst this helps distract Lorna and Tom from the loss of their beloved father, it also tests them in other ways. For the shy Tom, there is his infatuation with Cameron, for Lorna, it’s her love to hate relationship with McLaren.
There is a wonderful mix of interesting characters and a plot twists that make this an easy and enjoyable read. I enjoyed the pure escapism of the narrative, the well defined and witty characters and the pace at which events unfold. A great summer read.
by Andrew Caldercott
Rotherweird is a somewhat difficult book to describe. It has elements of gothic horror, fantasy and drama, underlaid with subtle humour.
The story centres around the links between our world and a parallel dimension where strange and mysterious forces are at play. The bridge between these two worlds lies within the confines of the secretive town of Rotherweird. The town and its citizens live by their own rules and very little contact with the world beyond their border.
Established during the reign if Elizabeth I, Rotherweird enjoys almost complete independence, but does exist with a number of restrictions, the most important being that nobody studies the town or its history. This presents a bit of a challenge for Jonah Oblong, the newly appointed History teacher at the Rotherweird School. Undaunted by this he soon begins to become acquainted with the townsfolk and their ways but he is not the only new face in town. The old manor has a new inhabitant, the mysterious Sir Veronal and his “wife” Lady Slickstone.
There are a plethora of interesting characters, all playing their part in the events that are about to unfold, bringing great danger to not only Rotherweird but the strange the inhabitants of the mysterious Lost Acre. Not everyone is as they seem and it soon becomes clear that there is a very good reason for keeping the town’s history a secret.
The plot has all the twists and turns you would expect from a good drama but I have difficulty with the more fantastic elements of the story. Strange creatures, reminiscent of something from ancient mythology, ancient books and characters who are much older than they seem make for an interesting mix.
As I said, it is a rather strange book and one that I had some trouble following at times. I enjoyed the story but some of the narrative lacked clarity. Having said that there are some strange and enticing characters whose stories I found intriguing. I enjoyed the book and was happy with the plot and the eventual outcome. However, I am not too sure about seeking out the next books in the series.