Draca by Geoffrey Gudgion

Draca by Geoffrey Gudgion

Draca is a wonderful tale that combines many different elements and weaves them together to make a satisfying story; not an easy book to categorize so it will have wide appeal. I started reading Draca on the Pigeonhole app and got so engrossed, I requested it from Rosie’s Book Review Team list as well.

Jack is a former officer in the Royal Marines with PTSD, and a life-altering injury, trying to get his life back on an even keel. He was close to his grandfather, Eddie, who has recently died and left most of his estate to Jack. To say this does not go down well with Jack’s father, Harry, and his sister, Tilly, would be an understatement. Their mercenary attitude and sense of entitlement beggars belief especially as they had not cared much about Eddie when he was alive.

Add to this Jack’s faltering marriage to Charlotte, the rift between him and his family, and his embryonic relationship with George and you have the makings of a real page-turner. Told in the third person from the points of view of Jack, Harry and George we can see the story from all angles.

Interspersed with the narrative are extracts from Eddie’s diaries and the Norse Saga of King Guthrum which help to explain Eddie’s weird behaviour in the months before his death. The history of the Saxons and Vikings is not something I know much about, but I am now interested in finding out more. The supernatural element is done with a light touch and seemed perfectly plausible; at times Draca does seem to be a malign influence with a mind of her own.    

I loved reading about the sailing without actually having to get on a boat – it’s not something I would ever be brave enough to do, especially as I get really seasick. I don’t think it matters if you understand sailing terminology or not, when Jack takes the vintage sailing cutter out on the open sea, the writing is thrilling and you can almost feel the spray on your face.

This is not the sort of book I would normally read, but I’m so glad I did. Beautifully written and well researched, with fully fleshed out characters, some sympathetic and others not, I thoroughly recommend that you give Draca a try.    

Thanks to Geoffrey Gudgion and Unbound for a copy that I review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT

The Summer of Taking Chances by Lynne Shelby

The Summer of Taking Chances by Lynne Shelby

Emma is looking forward to playing Juliet in the local amateur dramatic society production when Jake Murray arrives back in South Quay for the summer, ten years after he left to go to drama school, and thoroughly unsettles her. Now a household name, thanks to his role in a successful TV series, he’s taking the summer off, away from the media spotlight, and catching up with his old school friends.

At the beginning of The Summer of Taking Chances, Jake comes across as a bit arrogant and full of himself; not very likeable really. But we get to see him through Emma’s eyes, and it’s obvious they have history. It was Emma who first got Jake interested in acting at the school drama club. As the story is told from Emma’s point of view, their previous relationship is gradually revealed in a series of flashbacks, and it becomes clear both what he means to her and why she does not entirely trust him now.

The pace is quite slow to begin with as the scene is set, and we are introduced to all the members of the dramatic society. At one point, about halfway through, it looked as if the inevitable happy ending was not possible. From here on it was fascinating reading how Lynne Shelby made it happen in a believable and natural way.

Both the main characters change for the better by the end of the book, and overcome the obstacles in their path. Jake’s love of the theatre is reignited, as being back where he grew up helps him remember why he loved acting in the first place. Emma comes to see that she gave up on her dream too easily, and that it’s not too late to do something about it.

Most of the action takes place in South Quay, but I enjoyed reading about their trip to London for the opening night of the musical starring Jake’s friends Zac and Julia (from Lynne’s previous book There She Goes). The walks they took along the canal showed a different, and more interesting, part of London than the usual tourist spots.

This is the third book by Lynne Shelby that I have read, and it does not disappoint. I loved the dialogue between Jake and Emma, where they quote Shakespeare to each other, and the idyllic coastal village setting. The characters are well written and believable, and the eye-catching cover art should ensure the book reaches a wide audience.

I am reviewing The Summer of Taking Chances as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT

Summerwater by Sarah Moss

Summerwater by Sarah Moss

Set over the course of one day at the height of summer in a run-down Scottish cabin park in the Trossachs, Summerwater is a short novella (not so easy to tell when reading on a kindle) that gives us access to the innermost thoughts of the inhabitants of six of these cabins – one from each in the morning and another in the afternoon.

With so many different viewpoints, it is almost like a series of linked short stories and does feel a bit disjointed at times. The stream of consciousness style of writing gives the reader a unique insight into every thought and feeling that passes through the character’s mind; in some cases we get the same situation from both partners, and the difference in their thoughts is very revealing.

Anyone who has ever taken a similar holiday in Scotland will be familiar with this type of weather; it’s par for the course. What I found strange was that very few of them ventured out, allowing themselves to be stuck indoors, as you don’t go to Scotland for the weather. One lady goes running, a teenage boy goes for a trip in his kayak, and the elderly couple go out in the car; otherwise everyone else mostly stays indoors. The writing emphasises the claustrophobic feeling of being trapped and shut in.

By being party to the thoughts of each of the characters, we learn that they watch each other, but there is very little interaction between them. There are some Ukrainians in one cabin having parties and playing loud music late into the night; also an ex-soldier camping in the woods. We do not hear what they are thinking which only adds to the suspicion and the tension.   

Each of the characters has a distinct voice, but some of their thoughts are a bit insular and depressing. Between each chapter is a short piece on the natural world surrounding the park; perhaps a reminder that the humans are not the only creatures living there.

I have not read anything by Sarah Moss before, but will definitely try some of her earlier novels as the quality of the atmospheric prose more than made up for the abrupt and unsatisfying ending.

Thanks to Picador and NetGalley for a copy to review.  

The Sight of You by Holly Miller

The Sight of You by Holly Miller

In The Sight of You, Joel has prophetic dreams and this should be completely unbelievable, but somehow it’s not. It’s written in such a way as to make it seem perfectly plausible. Mostly, he keeps this information to himself as he is wary of the reactions of others, but it is seriously affecting his mental health.

Naturally, he has avoided serious relationships as he only dreams about people he loves, and the dreams always come true – both good and bad – unless he can alert the person involved without giving too much away. His family don’t know, and just think he’s weird.

He falls in love with Callie, but dreams about her death. He knows when it happens, but not how or why, so can do nothing to prevent it. Callie does not want to know, and he can’t stay with her if only he knows, so what can they do? What would you do in this situation; would you want to know what the future held?

The Sight of You is Holly Miller’s debut novel and shows her to be a very talented writer. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Joel and Callie, with well rounded, believable characters and the unusual background of nature conservation, this is not a typical romance novel. The relationship between Joel and Callie is really great without being overly sweet or slushy; they just seem to bring out the best in each other. It will certainly take you on an emotional roller coaster of a journey.

I really enjoyed the way Holly Miller has taken such an unusual idea and turned it into a wonderful and insightful story. I’ve read that they are going to make The Sight of You into a film. I think it will work really well, and look forward to seeing it on the big screen.   

Thanks to Bookends and Hodder for a copy to review.

The Detour by Jennifer Ammoscato

The Detour by Jennifer Ammoscato

Michael lives a very ordered life; a computer coder, somewhere on the autistic spectrum, he has everything organised just how he likes it. His routine is thrown into complete disarray following the death of his mother. In her will, she asks that Michael drive, with her ashes and her pug, Puddles, across the country to Lebanon, New Hampshire, where she was born. To say that this is well out of Michael’s comfort zone is a huge understatement but, driven by guilt at not having been there when she passed away, he makes the necessary preparations and sets off on his epic adventure.

It is wonderful to watch as Michael’s confidence in his own abilities grows, and he realises that he can cope even when things don’t go quite according to plan. His best friend, Savannah, who lives in New York, is really worried about him – he video calls her every evening to reassure her all is well.

The Detour is well written with believable characters, lots of humour and a nice surprise of an ending (you’ll have to read it for yourself). I enjoyed the road trip element, reading about all the places Michael stopped along the way and how the journey helped him come to terms with his mother’s death.

One slight criticism would be that the artwork on the cover could have been a lot better; it  really didn’t do the book justice.

Thanks to the author for a copy of The Detour that I review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT

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