MAGICAL REALISM, MUST READ

The Angel In My Well – by Kevin Ansbro

This was another excellent book written by the wordsmith Kevin Ansbro. It is a short story that opens at the funeral of Joe (the protagonist and narrator) for his grandmother. Joe and his grandmother are extremely close and Joe falls into a deep depression after the funeral. He sits around for some time not cleaning, eating properly or pretty much anything that normal people do.

Joe’s grandmother appears to him in human form as much younger, from the well at his house. Joe realizes that she was a very beautiful woman when she was young. He takes her to shop for some appropriate clothing and they prepare for a night on the town. She charms everyone she comes into contact with.

This story also has an alternate plot involving a Muslim man and his dire plan. I was perplexed about how this story relates to the beautiful story told of Joe and his grandmother. But, I had total confidence in Kevin Ansbro and his ability to create a perfect merging of the two stories. Of course, he did not disappoint.

This is a beautifully written short story that relates to a personal loss that I suffered through when my grandmother passed away. She had been my primary caretaker while I was growing up and when she passed away I was devastated.

About the Author

I was born of Irish parents, and have lived in Malaysia and Germany:
My formal education was at Hamond’s Grammar School in Swaffham, and at the Norfolk College of Arts and Technology (Stephen Fry being a much more famous former student).
I write in the magical realism genre, meshing otherworldliness into the harshness of our real world. I also like to handcuff humour and tragedy to the same radiator.
Perhaps incongruously for an author I have a background in karate and kickboxing. I also travel extensively – particularly in the Far East.
I’m married (to Julie) and currently live in Norwich, England.
Stuff about me: I’m a foodie and an avid reader who values good manners, love and friendship above all else. I am constantly putting my foot in it, am reputed to have a wicked sense of humour and love to laugh, but sometimes do that ‘snorty pig’ noise when I do!
I’m also easy-going and extremely friendly. Come on over and have a chat – I’ll put the kettle on!

PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLERS

Lies by TM Logan

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“I often wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t seen her car that day. If the light had been green instead of red. If my son had been dozing, or daydreaming, or looking the other way. If I’d been five seconds faster in the stodgy London traffic, or five seconds slower. If, if, if. But I did see her car.”

Above is the opening for the book Lies by T.M. Logan. This was a psychological thriller. I have read another book by Logan “29 Seconds” which I loved. I looked forward to reading Lies and it did not disappoint.

The book opens with Joe driving through London traffic after picking up his four-year-old son, Will, from daycare. Ben spots his mum’s car. Melissa, or Mel for short, disappears into an underground garage at a hotel. Joe and Will follow and go into the hotel, where they witness Mel in a heated discussion with Ben. Ben is the husband of Mel’s best friend, Beth; however, Ben and Joe do not get along as well as Mel and Beth.

Joe waits in the garage for Ben or Mel to come out. Ben comes out first and Joe questions him about his meeting with Mel and the intensity of it. Ben, who is known for his quick temper, gets very angry and shouts at Joe. It evolves into a physical confrontation. Being much larger than Ben, Joe pushes him down very easily. Simultaneously, Will, who is an asthmatic, starts to have a severe attack with no “puffer” in sight. Joe leaves Ben there to rush home and take care of his son, vowing to come back as soon as he can and make sure Ben is all right. When Joe does go back to check on Ben, he is gone.

When Mel arrives home, Joe questions her about her volatile meeting with Ben. She at first denies even having a meeting and then makes up a credible lie about the subject. To make matters more complicated Ben’s wife Beth reports her husband as missing, thereby involving the police.
From that point forward, more and more lies are being told by everyone involved, one after the other. Everyone is lying about something. Joe is subsequently dragged into a murder investigation due to Ben’s missing person status.

Then off we go on a ride with lots of twists and turns. I did guess how this would end very late in the book, but it kept me guessing and sitting on the edge of my seat until the very end. This was a terrific book. I gave it 4* instead of 5* because a couple of times, I felt like I was reading the very same sentence or phrase in two places. Other than that, I recommend to all, especially psychological thriller fans.

About the Author

Tim was born in Berkshire and studied in London and Cardiff before becoming a national newspaper journalist. He currently writes full-time and lives in Nottinghamshire with his wife and two children.

His debut thriller Lies (2017) sold more than 350,000 copies and was one of Amazon’s biggest selling e-books of 2017. Together with his second standalone thriller, 29 Seconds (2018), his books are now published in a dozen countries around the world including the USA, South Korea, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Romania and the Netherlands.

HISTORICAL FICTION, MUST READ

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

John Boyne never fails to blow me away.  Anything he writes is phenomenal.  This book was no exception.  I doubt that I can come anywhere close to describing how much I enjoyed this book, but I will try. 

Meet Cyril Avery.  He is the illegitimate son born to a teenager in Dublin, Ireland.  She is shamed by the entire village where she resides.  Thrown out of her parents’ house and shunned by the entire community, Cyril is put up for adoption.  Charles, an extremely wealthy good-for-nothing except chasing women, adopts Cyril.  Charles’ wife, Maud is a reclusive novelist whose greatest fear is writing a book that is successful thereby bringing attention is brought to her.  His adoptive father, Charles, basically ignores Cyril except when he is reminding him that he is adopted.  Not a true member of the family. 

Charles has an attorney who has a son that befriends Cyril at the age of seven.  Julian Woodbead is also seven, but is much worldlier than Cyril.  Cyril and Julian are lifetime friends. 

The book follows Cyril from his birth and moves in intervals several years apart through his life.  It was thought provoking for me and reminded me that everyone at one time or the other in their lives pretend to be someone they are not.  Most of the time they do this because of  self-loathing or fear. 

This book brought many emotions for me.  I felt pain, loss religion, and prejudice among several others.   Simply put, John Boyne never fails me.  He is one author that I always look to when I want a good book where the characters are developed and the descriptions are vivid. 

If you have not read The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne, you have missed a great read. I’ve read several really good books in 2019, but this one remains my favorite.

About the Author 

John Boyne was born in Ireland in 1971 and is the author of seven novels for adults and three for children. The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas won two Irish Book Awards, was shortlisted for the British Book Award, reached no.1 on the New York Times Bestseller List and was made into an award-winning Miramax feature film. His novels are published in over 45 languages. He lives in Dublin.

ROMANCE/CHICKLIT

Between Sisters – Kristin Hannah

I am sad that I didn’t love this book. I read two of Kristen Hannah’s books and they were fantastic. I was disappointed with this one from the start. Aside from being totally predictable, it was equally unbelievable.

Meghann is a high-priced divorce attorney in Seattle Washington. Her estranged younger sister, Claire, manages a “resort” with her father, Sam, in the small town of Hayden, Washington.

Claire has never been married and has a five-year old daughter, Alison or Ali-Cat as her mother likes to call her. She meets an aspiring country-western singer who she falls promptly in love with. He in turn falls for her. They get married just a few weeks after meeting. [picture me rolling my eyes].

Meghann, or Meg as her friends call her, is rather loose in the morals department. Never mind that she is a well known and respected attorney who you would think would be cognizant of her reputation. Meg goes to Hayden in an attempt to reconcile with her sister. While there, her old habits get the best of her. She happens into a tavern and picks up an attractive but shabby guy by the name of Joe. They go to Joe’s cabin. After a couple more amorous nights together, they also fall deeply in love. [now I know I’ve burned at least 5, maybe 10 rolling my eyes]

Of course, as you may predict, [and you will], the rest of the story. There are many other characters in this book. I’m not going to go on with any more details.

I can hardly believe this same author wrote ‘The Nightingale’ and ‘The Great Alone’.

I won’t let this one be the last book I read by Ms. Hannah. However, I will screen them carefully. I know she can write wonderfully

Kristin Hannah is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 novels including the international blockbuster, The Nightingale, which was named Goodreads Best Historical fiction novel for 2015 and won the coveted People’s Choice award for best fiction in the same year. Additionally, it was named a Best Book of the Year by Amazon, iTunes, Buzzfeed, the Wall Street Journal, Paste, and The Week.

MAGICAL REALISM, MUST READ

Kinnara – Kevin Ansbro

“In Thailand and all of Southeast Asia, two of the most beloved mythological characters are the benevolent half-human, half-bird creatures known as the Kinnara and Kinnari, which are believed to come from the Himalayas and often watch over the well-being of humans in times of trouble or danger”

Whenever I read a book by this author, I come out of it being a little more informed than when I started it. 

Calum and Hannah grew up together and were the best of friends both residing in Norwich. Hannah has been in love with Calum since they were children. He, however, is preoccupied with other things of the boyish nature. They become separated when Hannah’s father is transferred for his job to another location. Hannah was crushed when Calum doesn’t say one last goodbye. They don’t see each other for years. But, fear not, they do meet up again.

After Calum’s current girlfriend is caught in the act, so to speak with a co-worker, Calum goes to Thailand solo on a planned vacation that was supposed to be for two. 

This novel takes place in England, Germany, and Thailand. It is clear that the author has been to and fallen in love with Thailand. The descriptions of the landscape and the people of Thailand, along with their beliefs and customs made me feel as if I was there with Calum. Here he meets a poor Thai boy named Sawat. He and Sawat become fast friends. 

Now, over in Germany, a serial killer is obsessed with pregnant women. At this point, I am scratching my head as to how all this is going to fit together. But have faith in the author he never disappoints.

The Kinnara in this story has been punished for a long-ago transgression of the murder of a human and has been banished to the bottom of the sea to sit and wait for forgiveness from someone. 
This was an adventure ride. Better than a roller coaster. Splendidly researched, romantic but not sickening. Happiness and sorrow both reside on the pages. A brilliant 5***** review for me. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

About the Author

Kevin Ansbro was born of Irish parents, and has lived in Malaysia and Germany:
He was educated at Hamond’s Grammar School in Swaffham, and at the Norfolk College of Arts and Technology, King’s Lynn.
Kevin also has a background in karate and kickboxing and has travelled extensively – particularly in the Far East.
He is married to Julie, and currently lives in Norwich, England.

Likes: Art, travel, good manners, independent women, Sunday newspapers and dirty laughs; funk, punk, Bob Marley, Pulp, Foo Fighters, Marmite, winks, pouts, Masterchef Australia and Earl Grey tea.

Dislikes: Strawberries (I’m not alone with this one), drivers who don’t indicate, men who devote their weekends to cleaning the family car (what’s that all about?) English winters, 1970s-style armpit hair on women, skinflints, insufficiently-chilled white wine, homophobes, misogynists, xenophobes and ignorant jerks in general.

Right, enough about me: my books are way more interesting.
http://www.kevinansbro.co.uk