‘Akea’ by Elizabeth Jade


Akea

Born into a family of huskies, Akea soon realises that she is no ordinary dog. When the wolf Kazakh begins to visit her, Akea feels strangely drawn towards him and the wolfpack.

Elizabeth Jade is a young author who has a talent for writing stories. She has created a sensitive and heartening story that reminded me a lot of Jack London’s ‘Call of the Wild’. Her writing style is fresh and thoughtful with a good feel for plot and character. I loved the story arc, the language of the huskies and wolves, and the relationship between Akea and Kazakh.

This is a charming tale that promises great things for more adventures – Elizabeth Jade is already working on Akea’s next adventure.

Elizabeth’s website and blog can be seen here.

 
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‘Four American Tales’ by Jack Messenger


Four American Tales

Jack Messenger’s first collection of stories throws up an eclectic mix of characters and situations, binding the tales together with themes of love and loss, struggle and ambition. The possibilities of starting again feature in the first two stories: ‘Wichega’ finds a classic automobile prodding a child into imagining what might be happening to her family when they move to a new town. The search for stolen loot and possibility of a fresh start, carry ex-con Earle and his patient girlfriend Nadine across the dessert, in ‘A Hundred Ways to Live’. In ‘Ballbusters on Parade’, we focus on the sex industry when a man discovers he has a particular asset that could change his life – but will it enable him to hang on to his girlfriend? In the final story, ‘Uncle Mort’, Helen inherits property, but her relationship with her husband opens up the rift between them as they strive to work out what to do with the run-down house.

Featuring mainly strong female characters who face challenges that could change their lives, this is a fascinating collection that demonstrates a talent for language and character. The ‘voices’ in each story are very different, which often signifies a highly talented writer. In this case, the author shows he can write intelligently and inventively in a variety of styles while still keeping his audience engrossed.

It’s always nice to jump on the literary train at the start, and I’ll be looking forward to Jack Messenger’s next book with relish.

 
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‘The Order of Actaeon’ by Tam May


The Order of Actaeon

Heir to the fortune and name of the Alderdice family, Jake struggles with a passion for art that is despised by his mother. Along with sister Vivian, the young man is taken to the fashionable resort of Waxwood, where beady-eyed matriarch Larissa hopes to instil in him some of the values held by her father.

When the enigmatic and patriarchal Stevens arrives on the scene, Larissa anticipates her son will be swayed by the older man’s influence. As the two get to know each other, Jake’s art prompts Stevens to introduce him to the Order of Actaeon, a reclusive group of men who have discarded commercialism and the usual niceties of home life for a more natural and wild existence. However, there is a disturbing aspect to the group that could force Jake to rethink his own philosophy.

My first look at Tam May’s work consisted of her short story collection, ‘Gnarled Bones and Other Stories’, which impressed me greatly. ‘The Order of Actaeon’, book 1 in the Waxwood series, further demonstrates her talent for language. The writing is sharp and insightful with a turn of phrase that is a pleasure to behold. The characters are wonderfully realistic, and (in the case of Larissa at least), not always likeable. Nevertheless, the story draws the reader into an irresistible and intricate web, one that binds the Alderdice family together while at the same time, threatens to tear them apart.

One of these days, Tam May is going to push Johnny Steinbeck off his pedestal with her dazzling prose and gift for creating provocative and fascinating stories. Go girl!

 
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‘Sir Chocolate and the Baby Cookie Monster Story and Cookbook’ by Robbie and Michael Cheadle


Sir Chocolate and the Baby Cookie Monster Story and Cookbook

Book 2 of Robbie Cheadle’s Sir Chocolate series features Sir Chocolate and Lady Sweet in a hunt to find a lost baby cookie monster. As well as the story, we learn how to make a selection of delicious recipes, including Easy Sausage Rolls and Chocolate Butter Icing.

I bought the paperback version of this charming children’s book mainly because the Kindle format of picture books rarely reproduce the images satisfactorily (though to be fair I didn’t look at the ebook version, so can’t say for sure). The story is in rhyme and tells of the search for the missing Baby Cookie Monster, including a trip in a chocolate cake car and characters such as the Vanilla Fudge Bird.

The pictures of all the edible characters show up well and compliment the story. The recipes too, are delightful and are laid out in a way that makes them easy to understand for young kids.

Robbie Cheadle started writing these books when her son Michael came up with ideas for the characters. Robbie’s website is a great resource for cooks and kids, as it includes videos of some of her other recipes as well as tutorials on fondant art and mouth-watering images of the World of Sir Chocolate. Too yummy indeed!

 
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‘Speaks the Nightbird’ by Robert McCammon


Speaks the Nightbird

(Audiobook)
1699. A magistrate and his clerk journey to the remote community of Fount Royal in The Carolinas, intending to put on trial a woman accused of witchcraft. But the young clerk, Matthew Corbett, isn’t convinced of the woman’s guilt and when the magistrate falls ill, takes on the task of putting questions to the so-called witch. But despite Matthew’s misgivings, Magistrate Woodward sentences the woman to death by burning, giving the young man only a few days to pursue his own theories.

I’m ashamed to admit I hadn’t heard of best-selling author Robert McCammon, but I certainly won’t be ignoring him any longer. ‘Speaks the Nightbird’ is the first book in the Matthew Corbett series (there are six so far), and it gets off to a cracking start. McCammon is a consummate storyteller who creates a world so compelling and all-encompassing that I even considered staying off work so I’d be able to finish the book. The writing is superb, and immerses the reader in a God-fearing, witch-hating community that is as convincing and as frightening as anything I’ve ever come across in the pages of a book. His characters are totally believable and the plot, which throws its hero into a complex and disturbing investigation, had me completely absorbed from page one.

Robert McCammon is my new favourite author and I’ve already got the next Matthew Corbett adventure (The Queen of Bedlam) on my bookshelf.

 
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‘London Large: Blood on the Streets’ by G & R Robson


London Large: Blood on the Streets

Top cop DI Harry Hawkins finds himself stuck in the middle of on an international gang war in central London, but his past and the media conspire to get in the way of catching the bad guys. With a possible conspiracy in the offing and a level of violence he hasn’t seen since the Falklands, Harry faces a seemingly impossible task. Will his old-school ways bring him the justice and revenge he desires?

This is the first in the London Large series, written by Gary and Roy Robson. I bought the paperback version of the book simply because I liked the cover, and a quick read of the opening pages led me to believe it would be an entertaining read. I liked the protagonist a lot in the beginning, but quickly found him getting on my nerves. That old nugget of crime capers, the generic old-school, unstable detective, has worn thin over the years and the Robson brothers don’t bring anything new to the pot. On top of that, the text is littered with errors and has enough clichés to burn the bridges of several bad novels. And given that this first book has a few hundred reviews (many of which highlight these same issues), I’m surprised the authors haven’t done something about it by now.

Having said this, I loved the unified cover designs for the books and the characters (apart from Harry), were an interesting lot. With a bit of editing and character development, this could be a cracking series.

 
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