A Robot in the Garden, by Deborah Install

Publisher: Doubleday / Transworld |  Published 23rd April 2015  |  Edition: Kindle (via Netgalley)

What an amazing story that’s perfectly formed in every way, just like Tang. Being utterly adorable and thoughtfully constructed, you won’t want to put Tang, sorry, this book down.

It’s unexpectedly amusing and also touching. Although, it’s not without its serious side, it’s an altogether delightful tale about relationships, expectations and, well, life in general.

Robot in the garden

A story that’s perfectly formed. There’s no missing components here…

There’s no time period mentioned in the book, but it is set in our seemingly ordinary, everyday world, only in this book technology has moved on from our own. AI (Androids / Artificial Intelligence) perform servant’s duties to take the pressure off humans who choose to utilise their services.

Whoa, before you switch offthis isn’t some futuristic, sci-fi affair, appealing to addicts of the fantasy genre, far from it. It’s a down to earth story of everyday life, the only exception is having a rusting robot called Tang as the star attraction – and he is undoubtedly every inch a star (all four feet, two inches of him!).

The main characters feature a failed trainee veterinary student, the unemployed Ben, his high-flying and perfectly preened barrister wife, Amy, and a mysterious addition to their family, a one of a kind robot that behaves like no other.

Tang This one

Fall in love with Tang.

Tang got my attention from the get-go. It’s impossible not to find him endearing, without being sickly sweet. Deborah Install has written THE perfect little character to tug at your heartstrings; the way this vulnerable, little metallic creation sits its corroding carcass in the garden of the couple’s home one day, causing havoc on arrival is brilliant. Tang is barely able to communicate, but Ben sees he’s clearly in a state of confused distress.

Lack of communication appears to be the order of the day. While Ben concentrates on treating Tang like a new project to fill his days, it passes him by that he’s waving farewell to his relationship with Amy.

Life soon becomes more complicated for Ben when he’s faced with accepting his new responsibility, in more ways than one. What can two of life’s rejects possibly learn from each other?

Their story becomes a whole global affair, which takes you on a journey of more than just miles.

With the writer’s flair for anecdotes, which could only apply to ‘team Ben and Tang’, their daily scramble through seemingly innocent situations is humorous, if somewhat compromising at times!

THOROUGHLY RECOMMENDED: Go buy a copy and instantly raise your spirits…

Rating: 5/5

(I’m very grateful to the publisher for providing a Kindle Copy via Netgalley for review @BenWillis @Transworldbooks)


You can follow ‘The Robot Lady’ author on Twitter:  @DeborahInstall  |  The ‘odd couple’ even have their own twitter account at @BenandTang

 

The Faerie Tree, by Jane Cable

Publisher: Troubador Publishing / Matador | Version: Kindle

I admit I almost didn’t download this one – why? I was guilty of judging a book purely by its Netgalley cover. Yes, yes, shame on me.

The Faerie Tree by Jane Cable

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover – this is an edgy, pacey story.

It was only when Jane Cable, the author, contacted me via Twitter to ask if I’d seen her book and would I like to review it. So I gave it another look, and you know what, I’m so glad I did.

I’m sorry, Jane, I still don’t like the cover – in my humble opinion, it doesn’t reflect the edgy story you’ve written. Your writing is much punchier and pacey than I’d have expected, and writing has to be good to keep my short attention span happy!

 

Enough about the cover already, let’s get to the story:

Love, relationships, grief, depression, hope. The Faerie Tree covers it all, yet it’s not all doom and gloom. Nor was it overly soppy either. Nothing dwells too long and the pace makes it a very quick read.

Izzie (Isobel O’Briain) is a 44 year recently widowed lady, who lives with her headstrong daughter, Claire. She is grief stricken, trying to face life again without her husband, Connor.

During a visit to into town she unexpectedly bumps into a tramp and by doing so, she recognises a face she hasn’t seen for over twenty years. Despite his dishevelled appearance, Izzie could swear it was Robin Vale, someone she was close to but lost touch with under very difficult circumstances following the death of his mother.

Izzie can’t stop thinking about their old life and tries to track him down. She finds him, but he’s in hospital. Being ill, he can’t be discharged back on the streets and needs to stay somewhere to recuperate. So, she invites him to stay with her and Claire until he can sort things out for himself.

During his stay, it becomes clear that time has passed differently for both of them. Their lives have each taken different paths, yet both of them are filled with their own grief and are dealing with it in their separate ways. In fact, each recollects a different memory of their own time together – prompting them to ask themselves: exactly how close were they all those years ago?

In alternating chapters, Izzie and Robin tell their story from their own point of view. They battle for the truth, each believing they are to blame and questioning their state of mind, whilst neither is confiding in each other. Forever wondering if they can move on from their past – is it something that will always haunt them, or can they pick up where they left off, wherever that may be?

faerie tree

Example of a faerie tree, where wishes are made and traditions are followed.

The only real constant in the entire story is a Faerie Tree with its roots still standing firm, its many branched arms holding everyone’s secrets. For many years people have visited it to make their wishes and for kids to write letters to the little folk who supposedly inhabit it.

Following a wish Robin and Izzie made in 1986, he still holds respect for it all these years later with his quiet pagan beliefs. But what actually happened that day? You don’t know until near the end whose memory will unlock the true version of events and what the future holds for them both.

For anyone wondering whether a book that mentions Paganism will appeal, never fear; the presence of ‘The Faerie Tree’ and its associations are not the main theme, so the story has a much wider audience.

I do love a story that surprises me and this certainly did. I also loved Jane Cable’s writing style. If it wasn’t for a couple of personal ‘irritations’ I would have rated it five stars (I so wanted to):

  1. I just can’t see a teenager who has recently lost their dad being so content with moving a tramp into their house (especially if the tramp’s an old flame of their mother’s).
  2. And, despite Izzie’s obvious alcohol issues, you’d think if Robin cared enough he wouldn’t buy / serve a bottle of wine to accompany every meal, even if it is at her request.

Like I said, irritations really. Just ignore me. I’m a miserable old cynic and analyse everything  x

Still highly recommended.

Rating: 4/5

(My thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book for review, and to the author for bringing it to my attention.)


You can follow the author on Twitter:  @JaneCable

The Songbird’s Way, by Jennifer Barrett

Publisher: Poolpeg Press Ltd  |  Published: 23rd October 2014  |  Edition: Paperback

There’s an almost lyrical quality to the writing in The Songbird’s Way, which makes it a book you can truly wind down with. It was somewhat different to anything else I would normally read, so I was surprised by how much I was drawn into the mood of the story.

The Songbirds Way by Jennifer Barrett

A gentle, Lyrical read. And the art work on the cover is impossibly beautiful.

Great things are happening for Chrissie: after a previous career touring in a Irish music group, her teaching career now seems to be taking off. She has a relationship with a reliable man, Tim, who can offer her everything she could ever wish for, and yet, as she approaches a time of celebration on her thirtieth birthday, she is surrounded by uncertainty as to the path she feels she is destined to take in life, rather than is expected to take.

She fears that if she doesn’t confront her negative feelings soon, the changes that are happening will escalate out of her control and she could find herself being swept along in a life she cannot image herself living; she’s torn as to whether that would be such a bad thing.

Only by taking the advice her best friend and revisiting past tragedies can she find a way to move forward. But will she find the courage to decide what is right for her without hurting the people she cares about most? When she feels a mysterious affinity with an elderly lady that she reads about in the newspaper and her unusual and interesting life, this only creates more turmoil in Chrissie’s life.

Chrissie’s story is told from when she is a little girl, until the present day. We learn about her parents and the affect they still have on her life. Her mother was a travel writer and often away from home, but Chrissie relished hearing about her adventures. Her father had a stall selling records in the market, his roots firmly planted in England with his young daughter at his side; his death was a poignant moment in the book.

I really enjoyed the travel and traditional musical influences that are common thread blending the three Countries of England, Ireland and Africa into the story. Even though there’s much to contribute, at no time is Chrissie’s voice rushed and the scene-setting is sublime.

Like I say, I was surprised how much I loved Chrissie’s journey to her final destination – it was a truly memorable one.

Rating: 4/5

(Many thanks to the Publisher Poolbeg for sending me a copy of this book – I will admit, I was pleasantly surprised when it arrived a while ago, as I wasn’t expecting it – so a huge thank you.)

You can follow the author on Twitter: @JenBarrettEye  | Publisher: @PoolbegBooks

The Lie, by C L Taylor

Publisher: Harper Collins UK / Avon  |  Published 23rd April 2015  |  Edition: Kindle via NetGalley

WARNING: A packed lunch is advisable, as you’re not going to want to put this one down!

It’s addictive and impossibly twisty – I just couldn’t stop reading it – when I’d finished, I looked up and saw that it was dark outside. Now THAT’s the sign of a great plot.

The Lie by C L Taylor

How well do you really know anyone? Gripping stuff.

At first our narrator, Jane Hughes, tells us the pretty ordinary story of her life. Presently, she works at Green Fields Animal Sanctuary. She has a new fella in her life, a respectable primary school teacher no less. His young daughter seems to love both her and the animals she looks after. Jane doesn’t have any cause for complaint, until she receives a letter addressed to her at the sanctuary.

It simply reads:

I know your name’s not Jane Hughes.

Really? I’m already intrigued, and it’s only chapter one.

But the writer’s statement is accurate. Jane Hughes is not her name. It’s an identity Emma Woolfe adopted to free herself from events that she and three friends endured 5 years ago…

Aaaand cue flashback:

She and her ‘friends since university days’ plan a trip to help one of the group take their mind off a recent, obsessive breakup. They could have gone to Ibiza, or another similar place for fun. But no, at the suggestion of one of the friends they settle for trekking up Kathmandu to spend time at a retreat, which is designed for chilling-out and generally taking a step back from life.

We can all appreciate, there’s nothing quite like a remote location for a bit of psychological terror…

Over the period of their travels, some traumatising events take place and instead of drawing them closer, the friendship within the group starts to crack. Soon they begin to realise the bond that tied them together all these years may not be as strong as they might have believed, and you’re left wondering if the group will ever recover.

Five years after her return from the holiday from hell, despite making a new life for herself, a different nightmare is about to begin for the animal sanctuary attendant. During the course of the story, Jane, aka Emma, receives further unnerving contact from the anonymous source, intent on dropping sinister hints about their ‘knowledge’. The wait to discover ‘the truth’ is indeed a suspenseful one.

Oh, I do like a plot where you don’t know who to trust – although I could have struck a few of them for being perfect candidates in ‘the exceptionally annoying friend category’. At the end I can’t say my heart truly warmed to any of them, except for the rescued Staffordshire Bull-Terrier, called Jack!

The Lie is a well-constructed, psychological crime thriller that is guaranteed to get under your skin. It dares to ask the question: just how well do you really know anyone?

Good stuff.

Rating: 5/5

(My thanks to the publisher, via Netgalley, for the advanced Kindle copy.)


You can follow the author on Twitter:  @CallyTaylor

Real Monsters, by Liam Brown

Publisher: Legend Press  |  Published 1st March 2015  |  Edition: Kindle, via Netgalley

Real Monsters 27.02.15

Real Monsters is both engrossing and tragic.

With brutal truths and raw emotion, Real Monsters confronts the fallout of conflict on real people and the legacy this leaves behind.

The book is entirely narrated by Danny and Lorna via their letters, who alternately tell their sides of the conflict since the ‘monsters’ first attacked. Each of them set out to write their individual experiences to their son, right until the end of this compelling read.

Danny is a solider. He enlisted in the army to fight the monsters everyone has heard of. His new wife, Lorna, is left behind to carry on a life, which seems destined to be without him.

The two journals are quite different. Danny’s is an edgy monologue, a unique voice filled with expletives. It is an outpour of the harsh reality of the environment he’s engulfed by and the deteriorating mental state of a small band of soldiers reaching breaking point.

Lorna fills the background about life on home territory. Her journal records the life changing event at the age of twelve when her father had died in a terrorist attack. She tells of her troubled teenage years, until Danny rescued her. She relays her feelings from when Danny enlisted and her subsequent involvement in the protests against the war.

Although you can draw your own conclusions, at no time does the writer give an indication as to the location of Danny and Lorna. This story is portrayed in such a way that it could be set in any time zone, in any place, involving anyone.

It’s the emotion of the storyline that’s important, rather than a factual overload.  To give you some idea of how the writer achieved this, he introduces the two narrators, but doesn’t reveal their names until later in story. Although they remained anonymous until then, this only succeeded in my wanting to read further to discover their identity.

Some scenes are fairly harrowing and did make me shudder, plus the style of the narration does take a little getting used to, so it might not be a book for everyone. But I quickly became engrossed, right up to the final and tragic words that Danny and Lorna share.

Rating: 4/5

(Many thanks to the publisher, Legend Press via Netgalley, for the advanced copy.)


You can follow the author, Liam Brown, on Twitter:  @LiamBrownWriter  |  Publisher: @Legend_Press