Susan Francis


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Smashwords book reviews by Susan Francis

  • In the Middle of Nowhere (Willow's Journey #1) on July 23, 2012

    I absolutely loved this book. The depiction of teenage angst is spot-on. I did get irritated with the heroine, Willow, at times. (That isn’t a bad thing. If every character in every book was likeable all the time, I’m guessing it wouldn’t be that good a book). Her behaviour towards Michael bugged the hell out of me. He tried so hard and it seemed to me that she slighted him at every opportunity. But, wait a second, the death of her Dad when she was younger meant Willow couldn’t handle the idea of getting close to anyone for fear of them leaving her. She didn’t know what was going on with Michael, but she’d heard enough to know getting close to him could lead to further heartache. So, I could empathise with her situation and therefore make allowances for her behaviour towards him. I loved the way the first poem seemed to understand what was going on with her and offered consolation. Brilliant! I liked Tessa and the way her relationship with Willow developed. They sort of became crutches for each other to lean on without really becoming that close as friends. Also, it was great to read about teenagers who misbehaved and got up to stuff their parents wouldn’t have approved of for a change because, let’s face it, many teenagers do and yet it seems to be omitted in most YA fiction. Also, Knudsen didn’t moralise by needing to have dire consequences lead to their actions. Michael was a very likeable character – what was not to like? Okay, he did at times talk not-so-much like a teenage boy but more like a fictional character in a romantic novel, but perhaps even this could be justified. (What with him being an arty-poetic type whose philosophy on life was to live each day as if it were his last. He could be who he wanted without caring about consequences - and he wanted to be Mr Romantic.) I think some readers might say that there was a serious lack of development of the relationship between Willow and Michael. It is brief and the beginning and there is a big chunk in the middle of the book where Michael disappears almost completely. I did wish that there was more of Michael in the story. I would have liked to know more about him. However, I think because the story is from Willow’s POV and we are in her head, we only get to see what she sees and know what she knows. She didn’t know much about Michael so neither could we. Is that not great writing? The portrayal of Willow’s relationship with her mother was very interesting. Again, you see the whole situation through her eyes and it seemed as if her mother was a selfish woman whose child neglect was so bad social services needed to be called in. But, actually, looked at more objectively this was unlikely to be the case at all. Once again, excellent writing! There was one thing that I had a problem with: Willow sometimes came across as if she wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box and a bit slow on the up-take, even though she was a straight-A student. She seemed to find Michael’s poems too complicated to understand – they weren’t, were they? Even if they were it took her far too long to work out the message embedded in the poem of the Christmas card he gave her - I can’t make allowances for you there Willow. And then there was the bit when Michael had to explain to her why he referred to her as ‘smiley’ - Duh. I just felt she should have been more on-the-ball than that. As much as I enjoy YA fiction, there aren’t many I have given 5 stars to, but this one is a definite 5 star read in my view.
  • A Bed of Knives on July 27, 2012

    Bed of knives is a story set in Oxford, England about 4 friends who met at college. The story moves between the present (when they are in their mid-twenties) and the past (5 years earlier, when the four are fresh out of college). There is Gina the business graduate, Rose the fashion designer, Spider the promising chef and Eddie the rising football star. At around 18/19 years old, having just graduated, they come together for a final celebratory night out before Spider leaves for London to start his first position working at a high profile restaurant, and Eddie goes travelling in New Zealand before returning to start his career as a professional football player with the Rangers. Spider is mad about Rose, Rose is mad about Eddie, Gina is mad about spider and Eddie, although shy, likes Rose too. Their night out ends with them all staying the night at Rose’s house where Eddie and Rose finally get it together and Spider and Gina are left abandoned to watch a DVD on the sofa…. Five years on, Eddie is doing very well as a professional football player while Gina and Rose are searching homeless shelters for Spider who is now living rough on the streets of Oxford…. I enjoyed this book so much! It was well written. The characters and situations are so realistic. I was particularly impressed by the way the author, Elizabeth Jasper, was able to get into the head of an 18 year old boy and give us a glimpse of how he REALLY thinks. Brilliant! This is a sweet story with very likeable characters. I loved finding out what was happening to each of them. I liked the strength and wisdom Gina had but my favourite character was Spider. Jasper graciously warned people about the swearing and sexual content of the book. I understand why since it may not be suitable for younger teens or those who are sensitive to swearing and sex in books, but for others please don’t let this put you off reading it. It isn’t erotica. I couldn’t fault this wonderful novel. (I couldn’t work out why it was called Bed of Knives though and I’m curious to find out.) It may have been independently published but it is better than many of the conventionally published books I’ve read. I also think it would make a great drama for the screen (a TV series or a movie). I have already recommended it to a friend.