CathyS

Books

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Smashwords book reviews by CathyS

  • Circle City Blues on April 24, 2011

    I thoroughly enjoyed this chick-lit book, which took me no time to get into. It is instantly an effortless read with a likeable array of characters that you get to care about. Don’t be fooled by the hint of predictability early on – it gets thrown off balance soon enough, so which girl the boy is going to get is a mystery for a little longer. The author leaves no questions unanswered, you are left happy with the fate of each character and the ending is simple, but conclusive. This is the first book from this author I have read - Susan Bennett has a pleasant, easy-going style and her characters are well portrayed. I will certainly be reading more from Susan.
  • India Was One on May 05, 2011

    I have to admit that if I was in a bookshop I would have walked straight past this book. So, when I was given the opportunity to read it, I checked out a few reviews on it and, although a little apprehensive, decided, well, why not. I thought: what do I really know about India other than the Taj Mahal, Bollywood, Imran Khan and a cracking good Vindaloo on a Friday night? Well, alright, not that little – but my point is, I don’t know much. The reviews seemed to suggest that there would be something to learn from the book. My apprehension was happily misplaced. The first chapter – more of a prologue – drew me in straightaway. Whilst the novel is fictional, the story of boy-meets-girl-marries-girl (Jai and Kaahi) is interwoven with a treasure trove of facts about India – sometimes in the characters’ conversations, sometimes as explanatory paragraphs. The author’s uncomplicated style never makes the latter heavy-reading. The facts that are interspersed in the conversations do make the dialogue a little strange at times, especially between the two main characters – it’s sometimes hard to believe that two people in love would actually talk like reference books – but you become so engrossed in the information you overlook this. Even the references to cricket (which to my mind is marginally more exciting than watching paint dry) are interesting. If you separate the story from the factual content, you are left with a rather unsubstantial, rather frail boy-meets-girl tale, which would not stand alone. If you separate the factual content from the story, you have an ordinary, but easy-to-read guide book that could sit happily next to a Lonely Planet guide. Put them together you have a unique, enjoyable book that has you caring deeply about Jai and Kaahi’s life and future and the opportunity to learn more about the richness of India’s tapestry of culture, language, food, costume, religion, customs and geography. The author has now managed to put India on my bucket list of places to visit. I wish all my geography books had been written like this – I might have learnt more. This book is quite a little gem.
  • Land of Nod, The Artifact on May 16, 2011

    The Kindle seems to have encouraged me to read things I would normally overlook. The Land of Nod is one of them; it sits on the same bookshelf as a Harry Potter book. And that is why I thoroughly enjoyed it. A normal, intelligent boy, Jeff, leading a normal life, suddenly finds himself in another dimension; the author is superb at describing the fantastical elements of this dimension and I had no trouble at all imagining the strange effects, creatures, and, well, just about everything of this strange land. The reader always has a firm foot on the ground, because, as Jeff is not one of the fantasy characters, he regularly compares features of the world in which he finds himself with planet earth – and that’s why I liked the book – it didn’t overreach my sci-fi boundaries of credibility. The book ends with some unanswered questions – which I won’t detail, or I would be giving things away – so I am hoping this means a sequel…………I would, without a shadow of a doubt, snap it up in a jiff.
  • Kiwi in Cat City on May 25, 2011

    I don’t normally read children’s books (!), but as I was given an opportunity to review this, I decided a little light entertainment wouldn’t come amiss. And entertain it did. This is a delightful story and the author’s imagined Cat City was great fun. The cats’ names were cute and cosy and life, as humans know it, was cleverly cat-adapted – milk from the drinks machine, catpads (best equivalent of electronic communication!) and fish-flavoured biscuits. You don’t have to like cats to enjoy this story – the plot centres around getting to the bottom of catnapping (by cats, of course) – the mix of characters and how they are portrayed often make you forget that they are feline, from the members of the crime investigating cat force, to the wily perpetrators. Whilst the story ends well (I’m not giving anything away here, it’s a children’s book, it has to end well!) you are left just a tad high and dry, but, thankfully, you are reliably informed that the story is ‘to be continued’……..thank goodness, or I shall worry about Amy and James…. My grandson is only 4 months old, but I can’t wait till he is older, when I shall look forward to reading this to him very much.
  • Text Order Bride on June 01, 2011

    This is a short story about a girl who marries a farmer whom she has never met and with whom she has only communicated by email/text/phone. Although, the tale was a little unrealistic (in an old-fashioned way) and a bit too happily-ever-after, it was well structured and well written (with some spicy adult content) and I found it enjoyably rose-tinted. Whilst I very rarely read short stories, I found this a pleasant way to spend 45 minutes and not only will I seek out more work by this author, she can also be proud of the fact that, from now on, I will certainly entertain more short story reads.
  • Not Magic Enough on July 09, 2011

    A delightful novella. This was my first venture into Fantasy. Having sheltered myself from Lord of the Ring mania, you could call me a late developer and this was the perfect introduction to the genre. Delae, is a competent young landowner, who has patiently come to accept her life of hardship without complaint. One stormy night, she encounters Dorovan, an Elf, a race forbidden to mix with Man. They are irresistibly drawn to one another and discover a mutual need for passion, love, tenderness and sensuality. Their bond is deep and unbreakable, but their liaison is forbidden. I was smitten by the archaic timbre of the writing style and the hardship of the era was well portrayed; as were the beauty and integrity of both hero and heroine - their love scenes are powerfully drawn. Whilst the ending is sad, but inevitable, Valerie sprinkles a dust of happiness over it. A wonderful, moving story.
  • Husbands May Come and Go But Friends Are Forever on July 18, 2011

    This is a moving, but delightful story of six girlfriends, now in their 50s who have known each other since high school. When tragedy strikes one of their close circle, fond memories of the group’s past are awakened. Reminisces of how the six met, how their friendship was forged, their hilarious antics, the navigation through the minefield of boys, men and marriages and many husbands are interwoven into the narrative of the present now shrouded with sadness; these memories are seamlessly knitted into the story. The effortlessness with which the reader is transported to the past and returned to the present is one of the reasons I liked this book so much; in addition, the characters are believable, there is a pleasing balance of humour and sadness and the meanderings of the narrator as she recounts her own and her friends’ lives’ milestones and ups and downs are thoughtful, even profound, but never fatuous, as the tragedy forces her to contemplate and assess her life at middle-age. This is a wonderfully easy, very, very enjoyable and excellent read.
  • The Story of Plan B on July 22, 2011

    Having recently read a number of books by American authors, set in the States, it made a welcome change to read something set a bit closer to home (Ireland) and stumble across some familiar words like Tesco and Jaffa Cakes! This was an enjoyable chick-lit set in Dublin – Zoe, a computer technician, moves there from England to get away from bad memories of an unscrupulous boyfriend. She receives a phone call one evening from the publicist of a rather engaging, colourful, and of course, good-looking TV gardener, Larry Harte, asking if she might be able to assist with the biography of his even more colourful, deceased father, who died suddenly in the mid-seventies. What connection does she have with this man, how can she possibly help and how can she resist the rather lovely Larry? I was instantly drawn into this book, and it was not long before I got to CPID status (Couldn’t Put It Down)! The characters are well-drawn and make up a delightful mixed bag of quirky, comic, weird, and obsessive. Zoe is extremely likeable – she is patient, tolerant, funny and resolute; the circumstances leading to her departure from England are portrayed to lend her just the right amount of sympathy; facts from the past, both from 34 years ago, clarifying Zoe’s connection to Larry and from 4 years ago, revealing the start – and finish – of her relationship with her boyfriend, run neatly and smoothly alongside the narrative time and all three timeframes bring you to the end with satisfactory explanations, leaving no stone unturned. I loved Kate’s easy-going style and the veil of gentle Irish humour made this a delightful and entertaining read. Highly recommended.
  • Waking the Stones on Aug. 02, 2011

    It took me a few pages to get used to Phil’s style – written in the first person (Ty), his own narrative sentences are somewhat economic but they are Ty’s innermost thoughts – and of course we don’t all think in grammar book English! It wasn’t a style I’d come across before, so whilst it was unusual for me personally, this won’t necessarily be the case for all readers and I did soon settle into it comfortably. Two young travellers meet on a plane from Canada, both coincidentally heading for Glastonbury in the UK. Jen is a bit of tree-hugging modern day hippy, Ty is a relaxed, laid-back, take-it-as-it-comes sort of guy. Comfortable with each other, Jen appoints herself Ty’s driving companion, as he has arranged for a rental car for his onward journey. What they hope to be a tourist circuit of the famous ancient stone monuments of the west of England turns out to be a bizarre adventure which includes an escaped elephant, a fluorescent pink ferret, a techno-nerd, a dead goat, a dead body and the MI5; all of this is mixed with inner-cleansing chanting and ‘omming’, alfafa salads and green tea; in short, a delightful mix of bizarre, comedy, romance and technological wizardry. Not a long book, it’s enjoyable and entertaining, just right for a long flight or quick holiday read.
  • Heartaches and Miracles on Aug. 06, 2011

    This is an account of the author's experiences with a weird blood disorder called ITP, an autoimmune disease where her immune system is producing antibodies that destroy platelets. I found this very compelling. One doesn't normally pick a book about a rare disease or condition unless suffering from it.....but I found this very interesting indeed. Greta has done an outstanding job of describing the sheer awfulness of it all - despite the despair, heartache, frustration and terror and the other unpleasantness unfortunately happening to those near and dear to her at the same time, she never bogged the reader down with the science of it all and, more poignantly, there isn't a hint of a winge or a moan from her. Greta has a wonderful style of writing and this was a fascinating, comprehensive, but easy-to-read account of her horrible experiences. It was well organised and the anecdotes about her adored four-legged companions were welcome little 'interludes' which made the whole account very readable, but still impacting.
  • Wilderness Heart on Aug. 20, 2011

    This is a romance set in the beautiful Idaho mountains. Lyn is an attractive wilderness hunting guide in the Idaho lumber region where she has lived all her life. She has to battle against male dominance of this job and discrimination against her gender for the ability to do the job just as well as a man. On one particular expedition, this opinion is heartily voiced by Nic, an attractive, well-honed, thirty-something male. He, however, is using the hunt to disguise his reconnaissance of the area as, unbeknown to Lyn, his father owns a lumber mill company that wishes to make a bid on the land for its timber. Lyn has a deep-seated hatred for such companies as she can see no further than their defacement of the stunning place in which she grew up and believes their lumbering methods were responsible for a tragic accident that befell her grandfather. Seven days in each other's company in the wilderness gives them challenges above those provided by having to survive the harsh outdoors. The attraction between Lyn and Nic is magnetic and intense, but they each have to overcome their prejudices; Lyn against the lumber companies, Nic against women who hunt guide (and cuss and smoke). This book has all the ingredients of a hot romance: a good-looking, droolworthy male, a feisty female with mesmerising eyes, lust, desire that just has to be given in to and love. The relationship between Lyn and Nic moves along quite quickly and the HEA ending is predictable, but there are a few humps in the road, so you are thrown off kilter just a little. The dramatic Idaho wilderness is the perfect backdrop, wonderfully portrayed by Jacqueline – I could almost feel the crisp, crunchy snow beneath my feet and feel the cold, fresh and exhilarating air. An easy-to-read and satisfying holiday read.
  • A Brother's Love on Sep. 05, 2011

    This book had a promising start. A bank robber is shot dead by FBI Special Agent, Pilar Campos. The dead man's brother, Boone, vows the ultimate revenge – her death: a life for a life. She is then forced into hiding until such time her safety can be guaranteed. Her boss decides that the ranch belonging to her working partner's brother, Amos, would be the perfect hideout, but Pilar is, independent, argumentative, feisty and not always compliant and somewhat irregular methods have to be adopted in order to get her to the ranch. Once there, despite her annoyance at her abduction (however well-intentioned), she finds herself becoming endeared to her new environment and beloved by all on the ranch; not only is she smart and spunky, but she has an uncanny knack of being able to be 'communicate' with the four-legged residents of the ranch. Beloved by all, however, except Amos himself…….at first. The story had good components, but I felt the proportion allotted to the somewhat predictable love-hate relationship between Pilar and Amos was greater than it needed to be; I was waiting for the action surrounding the contract on her life by the brother of the man she killed and his attempts to find her, but the drama was rather hurriedly condensed into the last 15-20% of the book and Pilar's reaction to the revenge taken by Boone was not what I would have expected after those nearest, and most definitely dearest, to her were targeted by him. There were some slightly distracting changes of tense in parts of the story, along with random changes of POV that added to the inconsistency. I did however like the characters – they were diverse, well-conceived and the balance between the good, the bad, the genial and good-hearted was just right. My instinct however was to get a spoon and stir the novel up a bit to reduce the spicy concentration and add more boil and bubble!
  • The Royal Sheikh on Oct. 19, 2011

    I was advised that this was a romance classified as 'sweet' in terms of levels of 'page sizzling' content. It was indeed 'sweet', but it was also very sweet as in old-fashioned. Not that I have actually read any, but it did occur to me that this might be a very Mills & Boon/Harlequin-romance-type novel. It was probably typical in that the format was quite stereotyped and predictable – boy meets girl, falls in love with girl at first sight, does his best to find her when he fails to find out her contact details, chance and luck play their parts, then follow misunderstandings causing boy and girl to break up, but boy and girl can't live without each other, chance and luck are at it again and before you know it, it all ends…….? Don't forget I did say it was predictable. I liked it – it was indulgently sugary, innocent, charming and gave you a warm feelgood afterglow. It wasn't taxing, it was delightfully easy to read and the author had a very pleasant and especially refreshing style. There was something very clean and crisp in the writing as a result of the author's avoidance of any contractions in the narrative (not a 'wasn't' or 'didn't' to be found). It was very hard not to care about the two main characters, Clare and Rafiq. They were both independent, knew what they wanted and the misunderstandings that gave their relationship the runaround were neatly laced into their lives, never leaving you frustrated or wishing the pace of the story would step up a gear. Not a long novel, but it was well designed. I think I prefer a slightly more robust romance – something in the middle of 'sweet' and erotica – but it was hard not to like this; it was light, airy and enjoyable, just right for a quick and uncomplicated read.
  • Doodling on Oct. 21, 2011

    This is one of those short stories you read from start to finish with a big smile across your face……it was quirky, funny, imaginative, oddball and ingenious. What do you do when everything in life is going too quickly for you? The world seems to be making you run too fast and you just want to shout, 'Stop the world, I want to get off'? You do exactly what Neville did. You just get off. Yes, you read correctly, you just get off the world, it couldn't be simpler. Indeed there are minor details to attend to – you have to find somewhere to live and goodness me, there are some jolly strange asteroids out there with all sorts of bizarre and eccentric people on them. Not only that, while you are asteroid-hunting, you certainly don't suddenly want to find yourself having to find a way to stop with the world escaping its orbit and hurtling into the asteroid field. There are so many delightful elements to this short story, if I explained them all it would give far too much away. I will say, though, that it's uplifting and entertaining, and it's a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours in the company of toasterless inhabitants of an asteroid (have you any idea what it's like to live without a toaster?), a young lady who wants a book but can't read and I'm still wondering when I can go and celebrate the unmissable Venezuelan Alpaca Milking festival. Not only that, I'd love to put my finger on Everest's tip and give the world a gentle nudge. This is probably beginning to sound like I've had a glass too many of the red stuff…..to find out whether this makes any sense, I advise you to be magically entertained for an hour or two with Neville and his asteroid-resident friends. You will love it.
  • Doodling on Oct. 21, 2011

    This is one of those short stories you read from start to finish with a big smile across your face……it was quirky, funny, imaginative, oddball and ingenious. What do you do when everything in life is going too quickly for you? The world seems to be making you run too fast and you just want to shout, 'Stop the world, I want to get off'? You do exactly what Neville did. You just get off. Yes, you read correctly, you just get off the world, it couldn't be simpler. Indeed there are minor details to attend to – you have to find somewhere to live and goodness me, there are some jolly strange asteroids out there with all sorts of bizarre and eccentric people on them. Not only that, while you are asteroid-hunting, you certainly don't suddenly want to find yourself having to find a way to stop with the world escaping its orbit and hurtling into the asteroid field. There are so many delightful elements to this short story, if I explained them all it would give far too much away. I will say, though, that it's uplifting and entertaining, and it's a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours in the company of toasterless inhabitants of an asteroid (have you any idea what it's like to live without a toaster?), a young lady who wants a book but can't read and I'm still wondering when I can go and celebrate the unmissable Venezuelan Alpaca Milking festival. Not only that, I'd love to put my finger on Everest's tip and give the world a gentle nudge. This is probably beginning to sound like I've had a glass too many of the red stuff…..to find out whether this makes any sense, I advise you to be magically entertained for an hour or two with Neville and his asteroid-resident friends. You will love it.
  • Upgrade on Oct. 22, 2011

    I do love books that leave you open-mouthed at the end – this was certainly one of them. It is very well written and the author deftly manages to portray the main character, Brent, as a slightly pathetic figure: very rich and successful but lacking in the looks department, so much so he is prepared to undergo an irreversible process to make people or, more importantly, the female of the species, notice him. He is not a likeable character at first because he wants to become attractive to women merely, it seems, for sex. However, as the story continues you warm to him as he tries to focus on doing the right thing by the woman he loves and you almost start to feel your sympathy cords being tugged. The nearer I got to end the more I realised I had really no idea how a satisfying (for a reader) conclusion was going to be reached. I knew from some reviews that there was a surprise ending, and with only 10% to go, I smugly thought I had guessed it. In fact, I only half guessed it. What I hadn’t predicted left me speechless. I liked Stephen’s style – I found it sophisticated, and easy-flowing and I had a laugh-out-loud moment when he used a very analogical adjective which was perfect for the situation being described – ‘Clintonian’. It was brilliantly apt! There was certainly a very serious moral to this excellent story – be very, very careful what you wish for.
  • A Fall from Grace on April 02, 2012

    This was a very enjoyable mystery novel by Dale Philips. Zack Taylor is enlisted by his girlfriend, Allison, to help her cousin, Bonnie, who has been wrongly accused of murdering her boss. It would seem, however, that she has been made a scapegoat. There are plenty of potential suspects from the list of family members and business associates, all with compelling motives, but the police seem hell-bent on looking the other way and opting for the easy way out: Bonnie had motive enough and that was that. Zack gets the bit between his teeth – he knows injustice when he sees it and does his utmost to clear Bonnie’s name; the minefield of corruption, greed, infidelity, revenge, fraud, selfishness, and sex that he uncovers leaves no doubt at all that she is completely innocent. This is the second book in the Zack Taylor series – I have not read the first yet – but I was instantly smitten. I was drawn into the action instantly and Zack is easily likeable, if not somewhat captivating – he is loyal, compassionate, determined and focused. His investigations result in considerably more than a black eye on more than one occasion, but he remains undeterred – sadly at some personal and emotional cost. This was a well-written mystery, well-paced and well-constructed. The baddies ranged from unscrupulous to abhorrently violent – an excellent contrast to those who are and become close to Zack. I finished the book with mixed feelings. I was sad to not be able to turn another page with Zack on it, but consoled by the fact that I will bump into him again in Book One, A Memory of Grief, and Book Three, A Shadow on the Wall. Highly recommended.
  • Flidderbugs on April 11, 2012

    Jonathan is one of the most creative writers I have come across. This is my third (after Doodling and Magnus Opum) encounter with this talented author and he never ceases to amaze me. Flidderbugs is about two groups of ‘bugs, the Triplifers and the Quadrigons, who live – divided – in the Krephiloff Tree. If you thought that politics and devious ‘business’ practices were exclusive to humans, be assured that they find their way into the Flidderbugs’ world too. A very important and divisive issue separates the two groups – does a leaf have three or four points? It takes the offspring (Kriffle and Fargeeta) of the elders, who have long held council, to bring a refreshing new outlook to proceedings and to make them see the error of the traditionally held beliefs; but they have to act quickly – three points or four on a leaf will make no difference when there is a much more serious and urgent dilemma needing immediate attention. I loved the characterisation of dotty professors, dogmatic seniors, smarmy dodgy ‘business’ characters and homely, doting (Klummerfly soup-making) mothers. I loved the way the ‘tree’ is the Flidderbugs’ ‘world’ which brings a new dimension to the phrase ‘What in the Tree was I thinking of’. I loved the portrayal of the wheeler-dealer Flidderbug and his shiny, pristine carapace and sleek, trim antennae, and I especially loved the shambolic professor’s very logical explanation to the impending disaster, “The vectors of pressure bearing down on the indices of the central support elements in regard to the key structural components have reached a point where the proportion of lateral forces henceways in opposition to the lateral forces forthways have exceeded the most preferred ratio, leading to a situation in which vertiginous damage will shortly be unavoidable, resulting in a catastrophic breakdown in said structural components and raising the potential of a near complete collapse of the entire encompassing environment.” It’s obvious, really, isn’t it? This is only (sadly) a short, really easy-to-read story, but it’s huge on entertainment, charm, likeability, and genius.
  • Postcards from Mr. Pish: South and West Edition (Volume 4) on July 17, 2014

    How adorable was this little tome! History and geography were never my favourite subjects at school. But when you get snippets of historical and geographical facts in a book, taught to you by the cutest little terrier with one floppy ear and one very perky one, how can you fail to be interested? This is No. 4 of Mr Pish’s adventures. He’s travelling through southern and western USA, stopping off at various places to take a few snapshots, absorb some fascinating facts and being kind enough to send us postcards. No, not to say ‘Wish you were here’ but to tell us how he’s getting on, what he’s seen and what he’s learnt. It’s a delightful way to find out about the main highlights of the towns and countryside. The text is clear, concise and entertaining, exudes enthusiasm and is accompanied by some superb photos and a little map so that you know exactly where the little chap is. Designed mainly as an educational learning tool for young children, the Mr Pish Postcard series cannot fail to capture the hearts, not just of those youngsters, but also oldies such as myself. Utterly enchanting.