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Friday, 30 October 2009

Heaven Can Wait

By Cally Taylor

If you like romantic comedies, you’re going to love this. But even if you’ve never read a romantic comedy before, and you think they’re not really your thing, you should still read this one.

Heaven Can Wait is the story of Lucy, who dies just as she is about to marry her fiance Dan. It is a story of loss, longing and the overwhelming power of love. The story starts just before Lucy dies, and although the blurb lets you know that’s going to happen, it’s still a dramatic moment.

Lucy’s status as a ‘dead girl’ gives the story its supernatural slant, and skilful use of flashback fills in the details of Lucy’s life before death to poignant effect.

The story is told with a light touch and buckets of humour. Beware – once you have started it, you will not be able to put it down. Expect late nights until you’ve finished it.

I loved the romantic tale of Lucy’s quest to be reunited with Dan, but I also adored the story of her growing affection for her fellow residents in the ‘house of wannabe ghosts’, Claire and Brian. Despite getting off to a bad start, especially with Claire, Lucy’s journey towards understanding her two housemates gives the story an extra dimension and lifts it out of the ordinary.

There are some great cameo roles as well. Lucy’s geeky colleagues and Sally the eccentric sandwich girl particularly stand out.

Lucy manages to get herself into some hilarious situations and also some heartbreaking ones. This book really will have you laughing one minute and crying the next.

As you get towards the end of the book it becomes even more impossible to put down. You’ll be desperate to know what eventually happens to Lucy.

This novel is a real treat to savour.

Reviewed by Helen M Hunt

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Double Cross

by James Patterson

Double Cross is a recent book in a long-running series of thrillers featuring the forensic profiler Alex Cross. Two of the earlier books, Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider have been made into films, featuring Morgan Freeman in the lead role.

This latest one sees Cross pitted against his old enemy Kyle Craig, as well as another new and ruthless criminal called the Audience Killer.

The pace seems relentless at times. I say seems relentless because Patterson writes in very short chapters, one of his trademarks. As a result of this, I found the book too easy to pick up and put down, despite the fast-moving story. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but it did lose some of its grip on me.

I'm sure newcomers to the series will enjoy this book; it's a powerful thriller with many twists and turns. My problem is that I'm getting used to them and I felt that Patterson is now churning them out according to a formula, albeit a winning one in terms of book sales. The criminals were suitably extreme and shocking, well drawn characters but I felt that Alex Cross and the other good guys were somewhat bored with the whole thing.

Double Cross is available from Headline, ISBN 978-0-7553-4941-8.

Reviewed by Captain Black

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Book news: The Man Booker winner is...

As widely predicted, Hilary Mantel was last night awarded the 2009 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for her novel Wolf Hall. The novel takes the reader behind the scenes of a tunultuous period of history, the reign of King Henry VIII.

Sunday, 4 October 2009


by Isabel Ashdown

In Glasshopper, Isabel Ashdown has created a beautifully poignant, multi-layered family story.

The novel presents a vivid portrayal of dysfunction as it is handed down through generations, and of the little accidents of life that make us what we are. Questions are raised about what causes dysfunction in a family or an individual and what aggravates it.

Throughout the unfolding story, echoes of tragedy are counterpointed with moments of ecstasy where it seems that everything must inevitably turn out all right.

The story is told from two points of view, that of Jake and that of Mary. We start with Jake in his teenage years and then move backwards and forwards between his narrative and that of Mary, starting when she is a young girl.

For me, one of the most beautiful things in the novel is the depiction of the relationship between Mary and her sister Rachel. But this relationship holds the seeds of the tragedy that unfolds later in the narrative. One of the strengths of the story is the way that its shocking revelations are cleverly and subtly placed within the action.

At heart, this is Jake's story and the story of his complex family. But there are also some achingly good cameos. Some of the best are: Mr Horrocks and his dog Griffin (we get some great glimpses into his world); Sandy – 'nice enough, but a bit rough'; and the ultimate fly in the ointment, Gypsy.

Isabel Ashdown's writing is full of beautiful language and evocative symbolism. We understand the story better through the imagery of birds flying free, moths getting trapped and Icarus being burnt. There is glorious detail in the writing - like the description of the gob-stopper falling out of Jake's mouth and onto the pavement – which renders it truly memorable.

I was very impressed by the masterful handling of the chronology and the weaving of the two different points of view in the story as it rushes towards its climax.

Reviewed by Helen M Hunt