Articles, reading

Top 3 reads of 2021

2021 has been a pretty good year for me reading wise. I’m really pleased with how many books have managed to squeeze in with some effort so I think it would be good to just go through three of the more memorable reads that I’ve really enjoyed this year.

The Warehouse by Rob Hart

The Warehouse: A brilliantly imagined, thought-provoking and exciting  Orwellian thriller eBook : Hart, Rob: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

This book is an excellent example of what I seem to enjoy the most both in reading and my own writing – taking a prescient or emerging current issue and extrapolating it to an extreme with around which a compelling story is built. With The Warehouse we get an almost cyberpunk twist on a massive corporate conglomerate (analogous to at least one company right now…) that has its tendrils in everything. I enjoyed the speedy pace and how it introduced us, the reader, to concepts in the story world that become important later and I was quite engaged to find out the revelation of the mystery. The riffing of the characters off each other and their dynamic was quite good to see. This was a thrilling and enjoyable read that was right up my street.

Cold Storage by David Koepp

Cold Storage: From the screenwriter of Jurassic Park, comes one of the best  and most thrilling science fiction books of 2019 eBook : Koepp, David:  Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

This book was another thrilling and claustrophobic and read. While the ramifications of the plot are huge, the action takes place in a very small and compact setting with only a handful of characters that we do get to know pretty well by the conclusion. I thought the stakes were built up quite quickly and it felt believable in the universe and there was a lot of tension as the clocks are wound down towards the disaster. Cold Storage was another read that flew by pretty quickly, it grabbed me pretty fast and left me wanting more! David Koepp being a screenwriter on Jurassic Park impressed upon me its technothriller heritage and considering the novel of Jurassic Park is a firm favourite, Cold Storage is a definite contender for carrying on the mantle of what made Michael Crichton’s books so good.

Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

Dan Brown books are always a little bit chaotic but this was one that I got quite into. The plot played at breakneck pace while I knew that the main plot device was a slightly nonsensical if given a great deal of thought, I managed to suspend my disbelief enough for it to be an enjoyable and brisk thriller read. What this book does well is not to get hung up too much on the religious aspects but to focus on using those religious elements as devices on which to hang a thrilling plot.

I hope my recommendations of these books helps you find some good reads to fill your shelves! If you want to see the full list of books I managed to have a go at (as I didn’t finish all of them) then I set up this page on my Goodreads. I generally use this just for my own purposes but you might find something you’re interested in!

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Articles, reading, Reviews

Review: Wild Spirit: Huntress

*I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review*

Huntress up the stakes once again with Victoria Wren’s compelling and highly-readable Wild Spirit series, and with Huntress, everything that was so compelling about the first book – the story, the characters and the world Victoria has created – was ratcheted up another notch in Huntress, which expands and extends the saga that Win Adler finds herself in.

Victoria again impressed me with her breezy and easy-to-read prose that doesn’t shy away from being stylish, and it really brought me along with the story as it pulled me along! There’s some breathtaking moments that shatter the status quo we are introduced to in Huntress, and with a compelling prologue that’s beautifully written and well-integrated into the main story and with an equally exciting prologue that makes your heart do somersaults knowing you’ll have to wait for the next book.

The Wild Spirit universe is a wonderfully crafted and inspired universe and Huntress expands it magnificently.

I also bought the paperback version and once again was blown away by the beauty of the design – quality work that is deserving of such a fine book.

Articles, reading, Reviews

Review: The Love Story

Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of The Love Story ahead of release by the author, C. Kenny, for review purposes.

It may surprise you to see me reviewing a book with this title. It surprises me too, for I am not the expected consumer of this book’s proffered genre.

However, the fact that I read this book largely in one sitting stands testament to this book, which possesses a rare and incredible ability to traverse genre boundaries and preconceptions and tell a genuine, heartfelt and captivating story.

The Love Story, is, as the title suggests, a story of love. It introduces us to John Buckston, a twenty-something jack-the-lad who enjoys all the trappings that age presents: beers with friends down the pub, football, nights out. However, John is unlucky in love – until he visits the Winter Wonderland just before Christmas and has a chance encounter with a woman – Elena, who works on a kitsch gift stall there –  who will change both of their lives.

Where The Love Story is perhaps trite – a chance encounter between two star-crossed people who are immediately attracted to each other, and the trials and tribulations as these characters invariably miss each other through a cavalcade of misunderstanding and mistiming – it makes up for this in several areas.

First, the characters are well-developed, and it was their exploits that I became quickly invested in. John and Elena are the most well-developed. Starting with John, we learn about his family and his friends, and we find out he’s likeable and relatable. Pretty much the idealised version of the young man we all thought we were. However, he is not perfect and is not infallible, but it is through a harrowing misadventure having missed out on a chance, not just to be with Elena but to even tell her his true feelings for her that we learn his real mettle. John barely comes out of the spiral events take him down but when he does, he cements himself in the reader’s mind as a flawed but doubtless good and noble character beyond his years.

Elena, too, is a well rounded and complex protagonist – for The Love Story is told through duelling points-of-view – with her own skeletons that we see tantalisingly hinted at throughout. Her own journey is one that takes her to dark places, the opposite of where we, the reader, want her to be. She becomes torn between her head and her heart, a sense of duty glossing over the obvious faults in her situation.

I studied romance fiction at university, so I am aware that there is a familiar formula always at play. Of course, the star-crossed lovers do get to be with each other. It’s never a smooth ride. But with this book I felt taken on a journey in a very captivating and engaging way. The Love Story includes the best trait of the thriller genre in how the story is told – you just find yourself wanting to read the next page to find out what happens next. I think ultimately, we know that our lovers eventually get their happy ending from the outset, but the journey they go on – both physical and mental, plumbing some low moments, just makes that ascent to their happiness all the more rewarding and enriching.

The story is genuinely thrilling, with the stakes being upped with every moment – some moments took me by complete surprise, with a “how is the story going to get around this?!” reaction, which is in each instance deftly, but not implausibly or unsympathetically, countered, but it still makes you pause and reflect. Some moments came out of the blue, narratively speaking, and I felt my stomach dropped but the story ratcheted up from those points. It was impressively and stylishly accomplished.

There’s some truly moving moments contained in The Love Story, some harrowing moments and scenes where you’re hooked on every word, wanting to know what twist happens next. This is an ambitious and bold blending of two genres – romance and thriller – often seen as mutually exclusive, but this book presents a modern fusion that shows the versatility of both the author and the genres themselves.

The Love Story is written in fresh, unobtrusive prose that really takes you on the story of John and Elena, but doesn’t obstruct the view out of the window. That said, it’s stylish and precise, clearly written with care and attention to detail. Reading this book, especially when you push aside any notions of how “romance” books read archetypally, is a breath of fresh air. There’s no stodgy prose, or overwrought writing. The airy prose matches the story’s mood and tone rather wonderfully. The precise, delicate and intricate prose is by no means tawdry or maudlin, but takes the reader on a believable and compelling journey.

I feel that The Love Story also presents an important point and seeks to challenge a popular belief: that men do not write (and do not read) romance books. There’s a clear audience that this book aspires to satisfy and I foresee no issues in that goal. However, this book is approachable to those unfamiliar to the romance genre; it reads in a lot of places like a thriller and should appeal to those readers too.

I am not a romance reader by any stretch, yet I burned through this book in an evening – I was quickly gripped by the characters, situation, and story, like I would be with any good thriller. So don’t let your preconceptions about a love story dissuade you, and I see many good things coming from this author to come!

My rating: Highly recommended

Find out more information on The Love Story on C. Kenny’s website.

Purchase The Love Story on Amazon today! (Also available on other ebook platforms)

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