Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Book Review: Confessions (New Beginnings, #4) by Michelle Lynn


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Hockey is unpredictable. Grant Mackenzie has lived and breathed the game for most of his life. It’s what he did, but it isn’t what he loved. Sometimes you don’t know what you need until you’ve almost thrown it all away. He’s about to face the hardest month of his career. He knows what he wants now, but it isn’t up to him anymore and the damage may have already been done. His secrets are unraveling, his season is over, and it’s now what happens off the ice that matters most. 

Abigail Stewart masks her anger with sass, sarcasm, and a host of bad decisions. It is anger born out of years of emotional abuse. She has a new life now, but it’s a life of hiding who she is and who she used to be. 

From the first time Grant and Abigail met, they knew there was something there. Now, forced to spend two weeks on an island with each other, it’s time to face their feelings, and in order to do that, they must first face their pasts. 


What a cool series this is. The beauty of New Beginnings as a series is that characters of old can make all new stories. Mack and Abigail take centre stage in Confessions, and as an ex ice-hockey player myself, I appreciate all the team talk, manager one-to-ones and yes, the phoning it in that Mack does as a player. I understand it, because I did the same on occasion.

 "this latest certainly a power play in the genre!"

These days I am no less competitive on the football field. But Confessions focuses squarely on the romance between our two primary leads. It's hard not to like Abigail...there's something very girl-next-door about her whilst realising how good she could be as a future wife.

Mack is reckless, restless and annoying at times. But this is not annoying for the reader - he's a real guy doing real things in a believable way.

A short read that is jam packed with drama, but it is never over the top. I have read all of the author's books and this latest release stands amongst her best, and is certainly a power play in the genre!

Monday, 21 November 2016

Book Review: Pierson (Meager Boys Story, #1) by J Kahele



After his father's passing, Pierson Meager is left with much responsibility, undertaking the running of the family business and the fathering of his three younger brothers. For all the changes in his life, things are comfortable, uniform, and exactly how Pierson likes it—until an agreement with a stranger turns it upside down.

Susan Coyle is a driven woman, so when the position of Marketing CEO opens up at her company, she will do whatever it takes to land that job, even if it means cutting a deal with an absolute stranger. What Susan doesn’t realize is that this stranger will not only show her the real importance of life, but he will also unearth a tragic past she fought so hard to forget.


Pierson is arguably J Kahele's best written novel to date. The lives, loves and lows of Pierson unfold in her latest adult romance. What's especially pleasing to see here is a strong focus on story, not sensationalism. The cool erotic scenes are there aplenty, but it's arguable that the titular Pierson and 'woman of interest' Susan are the most rounded out characters here.

The dynamic between Pierson and his brothers is well done and anyone who has a brother (or is a brother) will understand how that relationship works. Again, Paxton, Phoenix and Preston all have their own ways about them, but Pierson is by far the most interesting.

"Few writers can write with such authority on mature relationships." 

Another huge step in the author's mature storytelling is in the relationship between Pierson and Susan. She is no weak willed woman, but neither is she an over the top facsimilie of annoying feminist heroines. Susan actually feels the kind of woman anyone could walk into but rarely do in real life.

I also liked the reintroduction of character's from the author's other stories, including some self-deprecating humour when talking about a character (Chain) 's name.

"Chain? What kind of name is that? What's next? Link?"

Loved that, along with the insightful thoughts on why Blu (another character) swears so much. Fans of Miss Kahele's works can have a lot of fun joining up the dots.

As to the primary story, wow - few writers can write with such authority on mature relationships. That's why I hope some male readers will take a punt and have a go at Pierson. It's important to behave like a gentleman in a relationship, guys. It's good to let the woman of your dreams really be the woman of your realities. Love is never boring, weak, or for the faint hearted, and in this electrifying tale in an all-new series, we get it all. Boy, do we.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Book Review: Little Big Boy by Max Power


Synopsis: Little Big Boy tells the often harrowing tale of a small boy, struggling to cope in an environment of violence and fear, in 1970’s Dublin. All he wants is to be a big boy, but that comes with a price. At home, he faces an increasingly violent father and at school, he encounters new threats from other boys and more menacingly, from one Christian Brother in particular. In the midst of his turmoil, the one person that stands up for him and keeps him safe is his mother. But a series of seemingly unconnected events, conjure up a storm of epic proportions, with this little boy in its path


Review: Two years ago I read a book that was to become my favourite book of 2014. That book was Darkly Wood by Max Power. Its mix of dark fairytale, myths and legends, stories within stories, along with an amazing narrative meant that I was thinking about it long after I had finished it, and I still think about it.

Perhaps that’s why I took so long to read another Max Power title. What if it didn’t live up to Darkly Wood? What if it didn’t live up to my expectations?

But enough of the what ifs. They are not relevant and certainly not helpful.

Little Big Boy is a personal, heartfelt account of a young boy growing up in Ireland. I admit I was a little reticent to read it, as another personal account by Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes was on such a level that similarities between the two would have been unfair, but it’s not totally unavoidable either.

Through a first person narrative we see the Little Big Boy of the title go through various growing pains. We see his brother Eamonn doing various rounds with his brutish father. His mother is no wilting wallflower but it’s obvious she is far down the list of priorities of her husband. But I come from an Irish Catholic family, even though I am English born. I actually love and embrace my Irish heritage, whereas my other siblings, especially my brother was less endeared to Ireland. It irritated me a lot that they would act this way, but I am sure many Irish / English Catholic families have similar issues. 

"The author never flinches from hard details, but he laces the story with light to laugh out loud humour."

Little Big Boy has a lot of scenes where the boy is getting into fights a lot, especially at school. For me, this was more interesting than the home life stuff, because I too would fight with other boys and befriend (kind of) some of them later. Of course there were many occasions where a truce was never made and yet I look back now and think it was character building. One has to take a positive angle on things, even something as serious as bullying, because the alternative (killing yourself) is too horrid to think about.

I loved the scenes that included the gaelic language. It is beautiful to listen to, but on the page you can only guess at what it means, but the author never leaves us in doubt about that. Perhaps my favourite example of this was how a boy wanting to go to the toilet had to ask permission in the precise gaelic terminology, otherwise they would not be allowed to go. Now I like languages but will admit I am lazy at learning them…conversational Chinese and a working French is what I am best at, along with a very basic knowledge of Italian and French. My mother would sometimes use a gaelic term but not very often. But I saw some similarities with my own upbringing and the main characters, though I had ‘teachers’ at school, not Brothers or Nuns (my mum was taught by nuns, though she had a choice gaelic word for them).

Midway through the story, it takes a rather sinister turn. If you read it, you will know what I am on about. But it links masterfully with the last third of the book. It’s here that Little Big Boy truly strikes gold. The short chapters allow you to make progress through the book quickly without losing the plot. It’s like some of the chapters are stories all on their own, such as the time the boy is out with his father (who is in the pub) and he has to stay by the car until he comes back. I could relate to that – my own father stayed out until 3 or 4am most nights, and made up stories to my mum about where he had been. But she knew, of course she knew. 

The author never flinches from hard details, but he laces the story with light to laugh out loud humour.

So my recommendation is that you should definitely read this story if you like a story that jumps out at you on every page. It’s not fair to compare it to Darkly Wood as it is a very different story. However, it just shows the author’s talent, breadth and depth of writing ability, and bravery in committing such a tough upbringing to the page for us avid readers to consume.

It’s another winner from Max Power.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Book Review: The Return of the Pumpkins by Lacey Lane



Peter Smith is a patient at West Hills hospital. He has been there for nearly a decade. At the age of thirteen, his parents were brutally murdered and Peter was tortured to near death by his Halloween pumpkins. Killer pumpkins haunt his dreams and his doctor thinks he's delusional. Determined to turn his life around, he has eventually decided to join in with the Halloween festivities in the hospital and carves his first pumpkin. Will Peter survive the tenth anniversary of his parents' death? Or will his pumpkin be the death of him?


The original Revenge of the Pumpkins was the first I read by author Lacey Lane. It was a brief, entertaining and utterly brutal horror story that was the kind you might just like to hear on Halloween, but in truth the ending was so shocking that the memory lived with you long after the trick or treat had ended. It was a delight to see this new story - it is still novella length but much meatier than its predecessor.

We join Peter, the protagonist from book one (or antagonist, depending on which side you take) ten years after the events in story one. He's not been coping well. There's echoes of Danny from the Shining when it was revisited in Doctor Sleep, though it is not a direct comparison of the two. Revenge of the Pumpkins strength was also its slight weakness - being short and shocking was great, but left us wanting more, even though it was a complete story in itself. 'Return' allows the story and its characters to breathe a lot more, but the length carries along to another great climax.

The doctors in the psychiatric hospital do what they can to bring Peter to good health, but the nightmares of those slashing pumpkins terrorise him again and again. The interplay between the studious and almost pious Doctor Mitchell and the (un) wise cracking and roguish Doctor Tanner.

It is not as gory as its predecessor, which may disappoint some, but for me the gore factor and mild sexual content was well balanced and a good choice by the author (because most sequel rules infer more gore, more sex and so on).

Another pleasing factor is the balance between dialogue and narrative which is well done and doesn't really allow you to put the book down. Although told in third person it was easy to get into Peter's head, to see what he was going through, that the nightmares seemed like the true terror, not the vicious attacks he had been subjected to himself.

"There's echoes of Danny from the Shining."

People tend to slowly rebuild themselves in psychiatric wards. We are carried along Peter's journey, literally, as he recovers step by step, breath by breath. People may not be able to relate to Peter's situation as to why he is in the hospital in the first place, but they can relate to these things...fighting for breath....many of us have been there.

Some of the characters, like Nurse Giles, play a dual role of good cop / bad cop and again, it shows good character building even though our focus is distracted by the increasingly psychotic behaviour of Doctor Tanner. Peter's eyes cast over Sue, a light amongst the darkness. This is good for the reader too, as we hope these two might get together, as the worst of days are made better by the love of someone special.

Sue seems to play the role of a sex crazed nymph but it becomes clear that she likes Peter in lots of ways, and he is a little overawed that someone other than doctors is taking an interest in him. Sue initially hams up this role, but as she gets in deeper with Peter, the story shifts to whether or not they will ever be released from that hospital, or make their escape before the pumpkins make their eventual return.

The ending is shocking, clever and poignant. One hopes that this is not the end, but the beginning of an even better third slice of pumpkin.