Christmas In St Ives by Miranda Dickinson #bookreview (@wurdsmyth) @panmacmillan #TeamSparkly

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“Heartbroken Cerrie Austin is doing her best to hold it together in the run up to Christmas. Not easy when her cheating ex works in the same school and everyone’s eyes are on her. The last thing she needs is a new teacher meddling in her beloved nativity play, even if he is charming, handsome and a talented musician. The Christmas performance is her pride and joy, and she won’t be undermined.

Seren McArthur has recently returned to her Cornish hometown and is enjoying being close to her family and her oldest friends again. St Ives is at its most magical at Christmas, with fairy lights and tinsel in every shop window, tempting locals and holidaymakers alike as they pick up gifts. But an exciting opportunity is just around the corner: will she stay or will she go?

Meanwhile, the St Ives Christmas celebrations are in crisis: plans for a giant lantern parade through the starlit streets have ground to a halt. As the snow starts to fall, can Cerrie, Seren and their friends Kieran and Aggie rally around in time to save the big day?”

It’s publication day at last! As part of Miranda’s #TeamSparkly, a group of book lovers who have been helping Miranda promote her surprise Christmas novella for the last couple of months, I’ve been lucky enough to have had an advance copy of this book for the last few weeks and I’ve been dying to be able to share my thoughts on it with you and here we are finally, so let’s get stuck in.

Christmas in St Ives is a short, e-novella set in the beautiful Cornish town of St Ives during the run up to Christmas. It introduces us to four main characters, Cerrie, Seren, Aggie and Kieran – a group of friends supporting each other and their close-knit community in St Ives, whilst each dealing with secret struggles, challenges and passions. These characters will be the focus of Miranda’s new novel Somewhere Beyond the Sea which will be published in June 2018, so it is lovely to get a sneak introduction to the characters and the setting and, having met them and had a taster of their stories, I am now tingly with anticipation for the new book. So much so that I already have it on pre-order. (As an added bonus, there is an extract from Somewhere Beyond the Sea at the end of this novella to whet you appetite even further). This book works completely as a standalone book in its own right, though.

As a short novella, this is the perfect read to curl up with and devour in a single, decadent sitting, and you’ll want to make sure you give yourself time to do this because once you dive in to the charming world of St Ives at Christmas, the build up to their festival and the sparkly lantern parade, and into the lives of Cerrie, Seren, Aggie and Kieran, you won’t want to leave until you’ve finished. So grab a comfy chair, a blanket, a cup of something warm and spicy and jump in. Miranda’s writing is beautifully descriptive and so immersive you’ll soon forget where you are and you’ll be right in the heart of the story.

Cerrie is a teacher in the local primary school and she is in charge of the annual nativity play. Her scenes were some of my favourites in the book. My children are sadly now past the cute tinsel haloes, tea towel shepherd headdresses and baby doll Jesus stage, but this took my right back to those days as a proud parent and I absolutely loved it. I’m also now going to be constantly on the look out for sea glass when I go to the beach, which I’d never heard of before but forms an important part of Seren’s story (you’ll have to read the book to find out more!)

This is a gorgeous, warm and fuzzy book that is the perfect thing to get you in the mood for the festive season. I defy anyone who reads it not to want to string up the fairy lights, glug some mulled wine and wrap up warm to visit a Christmas market or other wintry celebration, preferably in St Ives, which sounds magical. So if you are feeling a bit Grinchy about the fact it is only NINE-AND-A-HALF WEEKS UNTIL CHRISTMAS, or you just want something to cheer you up as the nights draw in, you won’t do better than this lovely tale.

Christmas in St Ives is out in e-book format today and you can grab a copy for your Kindle hereSomewhere Beyond the Sea will be published on 14 June 2018 and can be pre-ordered here.

About the Author

Miranda Dickinson has always had a head full of stories. From an early age she dreamed of writing a book that would make the heady heights of Kingswinford Library and today she is a bestselling author. She began to write in earnest when a friend gave her The World’s Slowest PC, and has subsequently written the bestselling novels Fairytale of New York, Welcome to My World, It Started With a Kiss, When I Fall in Love, Take A Look At Me Now, I’ll Take New York and A Parcel for Anna Browne. Miranda lives with her husband Bob and daughter Flo in Dudley.

The Magic of Ramblings by Kate Field #bookreview (@katehaswords) @AccentPress

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“Running away can be the answer if you run to the right place…

When Cassie accepts a job as companion to an old lady in a remote Lancashire village, she hopes for a quiet life where she can forget herself, her past and most especially men. The last thing she wants is to be drawn into saving a community that seems determined to take her to its heart – and to resuscitate hers…

Frances has lived a reclusive life at Ramblings, a Victorian Gothic mansion, for over thirty years and now Barney is hiding away there, forging a new life after his medical career ended in scandal. He doesn’t trust the mysterious woman who comes to live with his rich aunt, especially when she starts to steal Frances’ affection – and maybe his own too…”

This might be a very short review today because all I want to say about this book is….I absolutely loved it, and I mean I really loved it, it may be one of my favourite reads of 2017. I started reading it on Thursday evening and had to stay up until I finished it on Friday – I just couldn’t wait to finish it, whilst at the same time not wanting it to end.

It is initially very hard to describe what is so compelling about this book because, on the face of it, the plot seems like a fairly straight-forward premise for a romance novel, nothing startlingly out of the ordinary. If you read the blurb or looked at the cover, it might not jump out at you as anything special. Oh, but how you would be missing out if you over-looked it.

This book, its setting and, most importantly of all, the characters just stole my heart. They have stayed with me and had me thinking about them since I turned the last page; sure sign of a book that has had a meaningful impact on me. Again, I can’t really tell you why, the story-telling is so subtle and insidious that it grabs you without your really noticing. the writing is really so beautiful and clever.

The setting and the cast of characters are extremely warm and charming, you immediately feel right at home in the big house at Ramblings and the charming village of Ribblesmill. Frances is a woman that you cannot help feeling compassion for (although you know she would hate to think you feel sorry for her!) and the relationship she has with Cassie unfolds beautifully as two people who understand and care for each other, and have found each other just at the right time. Barney is a suitably attractive love interest, but really it is the relationship between Frances and Cassie that for me was at the heart of this novel and I think the reason I loved it so much. It made is so much more than the usual ‘boy meets girl’ romance scenario.

Frances’ children are suitably villainous without descending to caricature and I loved the characters of Mel and Akram and Ethel who brought some light relief, again without descending to pantomime. The whole book is just perfectly balanced and it is actually astonishing to me that this is a debut novel, the writing is so cleverly done.

If I had to make a tiny criticism, I would say that the plot involving Barney leaving the medical profession and the situation with his ex-wife was a little confusing and not very clearly explained and seemed a bit of an after-thought that was not fully developed but this is a totally minor issue and did not detract from the enjoyment of this book one bit.

I feel like I haven’t adequately explained quite why I adore this book as much as I do and why you really must go out and read it immediately and I think that is actually the genius behind it. It isn’t big and flashy and brash, it doesn’t flaunt its charms and trumpet its themes. It is quiet, and clever and sweet and brilliant and it gets under your skin with its warmth. It explores its issues thoughtfully and subtly and balances the ending between melancholy and uplifting perfectly. It is just a joy and I know it is a book I will come back to again and again.

The Magic of Ramblings is out now and you can buy a copy here and I can’t wait to see what is next from this author.

About the Author

Kate Field lives in Lancashire and writes contemporary romance with a touch of Northern grit. The Magic of Ramblings was the winner of the RNA’s prestigious Joan Hessayon Award 2017 for new writers.

The Once in a Blue Moon Guesthouse by Cressida McLaughlin #bookreview (@CressMcLaughlin) @HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK

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“Robin Brennan has come home to Campion Bay. Now her parents have retired, she’s set to become the new landlady of The Campion Bay Guesthouse.

Bookings have been as thin as the hand towels, and it doesn’t take long for Robin to realise that the place needs a serious makeover. Perhaps throwing herself into the task will help to heal her sadness at the tragic end to her dreams in London.

As she gives the guesthouse a new lease of life, Robin encounters old friends and new, including old flame Tim, who’d clearly like to reboot their romance. But what about Will, the new arrival at No. 4, who’s rocked up with the cutest dog ever?

Caught up in a flurry of full-English breakfasts and cream teas, Robin’s never sure what, or who, the next check-in will bring.”

I am ashamed it has taken me so long to post this review. I finished this book back at the beginning of July and I meant to do the review straight away, but the summer holidays seem to have got in the way. Still, better late than never, hopefully!

This book is one of the exceptions to my ‘buy no new books in 2017’ rule, as I got it via a bid in the Authors for Grenfell auction, so I have a lovely personally signed copy with a sweet note from Cressida inside as a bookmark. I’m really glad that I haven’t had to wait until 2018 to read this, because it is my favourite Cressida McLaughlin book so far, and I loved the first two!

Early in July, Mini Me had one day off school with a slight cold. I’m not sure what evil mutation of the germ she passed on to me, but the cold somehow evolved into the most horrendous ‘flu and I was forced to take to my bed – which never happens because I normally just refuse to be ill. Along with tissues, flu medication and a hot water bottle, I took this book to bed with me and it was definitely the best medicine. This book is totally absorbing, sweet and uplifting and I raced through it from cover to cover. As soon as I finished it, I wanted to read it all over again and it has earned a permanent place on my favourites shelf.

I must admit, I am a sucker for a book set by the sea, they transport me to one of my favourite places on the Welsh coast where I spend some of my happiest hours, and this is a particularly lovely example of the genre. I had a very clear picture of Campion Bay in my head and it is the perfect seaside resort, peopled with a lovely bunch of interesting characters. I loved Robin’s ideas for the renovation of the guesthouse and the themed rooms she designs. It reminded me a little of one of my favourite hotels, Crab Manor in Thirsk, North Yorkshire and I wondered where Cressida got her inspiration. (If I ever get to stay at the One in a Blue Moon Guesthouse, I’d book in to Rockpool).

The main character of Robin is impossible not to like, she is so open, generous and passionate but also unsure of herself, a great heroine to root for. The book has romance in the form of the brooding Will who moves in next door, and Robin’s ex-boyfriend Tim, who is suitably shifty as the local slick estate agent. Throw in a feisty best friend, a couple of cute pets, some fun local events and plenty of community spirit and magic starts to happen.

Although this is quintessentially a romance, what I love most about this book are the strong female characters, making things happen for themselves and not waiting for men to make everything okay. We all love to be in love, but it isn’t the answer to every problem and in Cressida’s books, sisters are definitely doing it for themselves, and the hunky men are just the icing on the cake. This is proper modern romance that will warm the cockles of any feminist who also enjoys a feel-good story (which is okay, by the way, you can be a feminist and like to read romance novels too!).

I loved this book. Cressida’s writing is warm and enticing and leaves you with a happy feeling. What more can you ask from a book? I can’t wait for Cressida’s next one because I think her writing is only getting better and better.

The Once in a Blue Moon Guest House is out now and you can purchase a copy here. Cressida McLaughlin’s two new Christmas e-novellas The Canal Boat Cafe Christmas: Port Out and The Canal Boat Cafe Christmas: Starboard Home are out on 1 November and are available for pre-order now.

About the Author

Cressy was born in South East London surrounded by books and with a cat named after Lawrence of Arabia. She studied English at the University of East Anglia and now lives in Norwich with her husband David.
Cressy’s favourite things include terrifying ghost stories, lava lamps and romantic heroes, though not necessarily at the same time. She doesn’t (yet) have a dog of her own, but feeds her love vicariously through friends’ pets, and was once chased around a field by a soaking wet, very mischievous Border Collie called Wags.
When she isn’t writing, Cressy spends her spare time reading, returning to London or exploring the beautiful Norfolk coastline.

Hello, Autumn! (@CathyBramley @wurdsmyth #TeamSparkly @veronica_henry)

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I love autumn, it my absolute favourite season.

‘Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

This quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby always feels so relevant to me.

For me, this time of year always feel like the time most full of promise and potential, much more so than new year or spring. It is the time of the new school year – shiny new shoes and stiff uniform, new pencil cases and new friends. The beginning of my university life and leaving home, starting my first full-time job, qualifying as a solicitor. I got married in October, two of my three children were born at this time of year, I started my own business in September 2013….all of the big milestones of my life are indelibly connected with autumn.

I started this blog back in January to keep track of my pledge to buy no new books this year and I had no plan beyond writing for my own pleasure – kind of like an online diary – with no particular hope or expectation that anyone else would read it or that it would be any more than that. I haven’t done a huge amount with it, I haven’t got hundreds of followers, I don’t follow any of the blogging ‘rules’ or do any of the things that you are supposed to do (the older I get, the less I like being told what I ‘should’ be doing. With age come the realisation that individuality is a lot more fun than conformity!). I haven’t even done any of the things I thought I was going to do with it by way of regular posts and book reviews.

However, this blog and its related Twitter feed have, nevertheless, opened up a whole lovely, welcoming community of book bloggers and some really exciting opportunities that I never expected. I have been able to connect to some of my favourite authors and help to promote their books. I have even got some exciting meetings lined up with some over the next month. I am attending the launch of Cathy Bramley’s latest novel The Lemon Tree Cafe in Nottingham tonight, and having afternoon tea with Cathy and Miranda Dickinson next month, courtesy of the Authors for Grenfell auction. I am part of Miranda’s #Team Sparkly, currently guarding an exciting secret on her behalf, which we will be revealing on 7 September, so watch this space. I’ll also be meeting Veronica Henry in November, as part of a hugely exciting new project for me and I have big plans for 2018.

So, at the grand old age of 45, autumn still holds a lot of excitement and new opportunities. I am, once again, starting some new studies this September and looking forward to looking at some new career options. I’ve got exciting travels planned with my family, meeting some of my favourite authors, another secret assignment on the go, and who knows what else might happen. My blog has moved on from what I thought it might be, and I have had to bend the initial rules I set for myself in order to take advantage of some of the chances I have been offered, but that is what life is all about. This blog may not be what I had thought it was going be, but it has given me things I never expected and for that I am very grateful. I do intend to do more with it going forward, especially once we get past Christmas and I can but new books again but, if that doesn’t happen, c’est la vie. As Katherine Hepburn said, “If you follow all of the rules, you’ll miss all of the fun.”

So, here’s to a new ‘year’, I hope it is the start of exciting new times for you all.

 

Letters from Lighthouse Cottage by Ali McNamara #bookreview (@AliMcNamara) @LittleBrownUK

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“The sun is shining in the quiet little seaside town of Sandybridge

Sandybridge is the perfect English seaside town: home to gift shops, tea rooms and a fabulous fish and chip shop. And it’s home to Grace – although right now, she’s not too happy about it.

Grace grew up in Sandybridge, helping her parents sort junk from vintage treasures, but she always longed to escape to a bigger world. And she made it, travelling the world for her job, falling in love and starting a family. So why is she back in the tiny seaside town she’d long left behind, hanging out with Charlie, the boy who became her best friend when they were teenagers?

It turns out that travelling the world may not have been exactly what Grace needed to do. Perhaps everything she wanted has always been at home – after all, they do say that’s where the heart is…”

Can I first say – how beautiful is this cover? It’s so cute, I just want to jump right into the scene for my next holiday – so I guess, job done by the artist! 10/10 for making me want to pick this book off the shelf and find out what stories are taking place behind this beautiful scene.

This is the first book I have read by Ali McNamara and, luckily, this book more than lives up to its lovely cover. It is a warm, charming, easily readable tale filled with likeable characters and everyday human dilemmas to which we can all relate to some degree.

The central character, Grace, faces the kind of challenges and decisions that we have all faced in some form at some point in our lives. The difference with this story is how she makes her decisions on which forks in the road she will take. I’m not going to spoil the plot for you by revealing what is special about her emotional guide, but the concept of how we all come to make the choices we make in our lives, whether to listen to our heads or our hearts, whether we should trust our gut instinct or let this be over-ruled by logic, I find really fascinating and I think it is handled in a really interesting and unique way by the author.

Grace’s main dilemma in the book involves her two childhood friends, both of whom happen to be male, and how her feelings for those two men develop through the years, how she recognises and reconciles those changing feelings, and how she can act on them without jeopardising those friendships.

There are very clear consequences in the book as a result of the decisions that Grace makes and a recurring theme in the book is whether, if the result of a decision seems at first to be negative, would you go back and change it, if you could? Would you, to avoid a short term pain, even if down the line the decision had positive consequences that could not have been foreseen at the time? How do you decide if the unforeseen positives outweigh the negatives? How do you know if making the other decision would have turned out better in the long term? What happens when decisions you take in good faith, turn out to have unfortunate outcomes? This is a really fascinating subject to me, and one that I have contemplated a good deal in my own life, so I really enjoyed seeing it explored in this novel. Grace, in the end,  seems to be a ‘glass half full’ kind of person, which prevents this book straying into some dark and maudlin territory, which I think is the right approach, but is is definitely food for thought in a genre that is sometimes be accused of lacking depth and substance. That accusation won’t stick here.

On a lighter note, as the story alternates between Grace’s present day relationships and her teenage years where these relationships were formed, we get a fun and nostalgic flashback to my teenage heyday of the 1980’s which I really enjoyed.

If I were to make any (very) minor criticism of this book, I would say that some plot points I would like to have seen described or developed in more depth – a more detailed description of the town so I could see it more clearly in my mind’s eye; more details about some periods of her life; the travelling was made a big thing of in the beginning, which piqued my interest but then it was kind of glossed over very quickly; – but I am splitting superficial hairs here.

This is a great example of the contemporary romance genre with a fun hook and some fascinating themes that elevate it above the herd – I found myself considering some very esoteric ideas which I wouldn’t necessarily expect to be addressed by this genre. Ali McNamara walks the line between a light summer read and giving the reader something to think about perfectly. I really, really enjoyed it – it was one of those books that you don’t want to put down – and look forward to reading more by the author.

Letters from Lighthouse Cottage is out now and you can buy a copy here. Ali McNamara’s new book, The Summer of Serendipity is out on 13 July.

 

About the Author

Ali McNamara attributes her over-active and very vivid imagination to one thing – being an only child. Time spent dreaming up adventures when she was young has left her with a head bursting with stories waiting to be told.

When stories she wrote for fun on Ronan Keating’s website became so popular they were sold as a fundraising project for his cancer awareness charity, Ali realised that not only was writing something she enjoyed doing, but something others enjoyed reading too.

Ali lives in Cambridgeshire with her family and two Labradors. When she isn’t writing, she likes to travel, read, and people-watch, more often than not accompanied by a good cup of coffee. Her dogs and a love of exercise keep her sane!

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt #bookreview (@John_Berendt) @HodderBooks

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“Genteel society ladies who compare notes on their husbands’ suicides. A hilariously foul-mouthed black drag queen. A voodoo priestess who works her roots in the graveyard at midnight. A morose inventor who owns a bottle of poison powerful enough to kill everyone in town. A prominent antiques dealer who hangs a Nazi flag from his window to disrupt the shooting of a movie. And a redneck gigolo whose conquests describe him as a ‘walking streak of sex’.

These are some of the real residents of Savannah, Georgia, a city whose eccentric mores are unerringly observed – and whose dirty linen is gleefully aired – in this utterly irresistible book. At once a true-crime murder story and a hugely entertaining and deliciously perverse travelogue, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is as bracing and intoxicating as half-a-dozen mint juleps.”

 

It has taken me a long time to get round to writing a review of this book that I read back in February, having been meaning to read it for a good few years, because I have just been unable to put into words how I really feel about it. I don’t think this is necessarily a negative, more a reflection of how this book has pushed me outside of my normal comfort zone in the types of book I usually choose. This book is very different to almost anything else you will read – a blurred line between fiction and non-fiction, between novel and travel writing, almost impossible to categorise.

This is based on real-life events that took place in the 1980s, although some of the ‘facts’ have been called into question and the author admits that the time line has been altered to make for a better narrative. However, it is a great example of the cliche that ‘facts are stranger than fiction’ and, if we weren’t made aware that the basis of the story was true, you would believe that it came entirely from the over-active imagination of the author.

This is a book of two distinct halves and, to me, felt slightly disjointed because of this. The first half is quite slow and a little heavy-going in places. It is made up entirely of a series of vignettes and character studies of Savannah, Georgia and its colourful residents, when the author is spending part of his time living there. Whilst these are interesting and beautiful in their own right, some of them bear little or no relevance when we get to the meat of the story in the second half of the book. This first half of the book reads mostly as a kind of travelogue – a love letter to this city by a man who was obviously and understandably very drawn to the place, its gothic atmosphere, its eccentric inhabitants and its unique customs and, in this regard, he does an amazing job of bringing the place and the people to vivid life. I defy anyone to read this book and not want to visit Savannah immediately, it is clearly a place like no other.

The second half of the book is totally different. This is where we get to the details of the true crime; the murder of a male prostitute by an eminent, but somewhat unconventional, Savannah socialite and the subsequent FOUR trials it took to decide his guilt or innocence one way or the other. This section of the book is totally riveting, more so because it is fact, not fiction, and it moves a lot quicker than the first half. The writer does a fine job of keeping us in suspense on the issue of the accused’s guilt and the book is an excellent read for any fans of true crime books. This is a cut above the usual salacious approach to true crime writing – this book has real elegance in the portrayal of the murder and the laboured, legal aftermath.

John Berendt is first and foremost a journalist and this really evident in his writing style in this book. He has a very keen eye for detail and a great talent for drawing an attractive and evocative picture of the setting and its inhabitants. I had a very clear image in my head of Savannah and the characters he is describing throughout my reading of the book. However, the downside of his style for me is that the book lacked the flow you would usually expect of a full-length novel and it felt a little more like a series of loosely connected reportage pieces, particularly the first half.

So, I am still undecided as to how I really feel about this book. Am I glad I read it? Yes, definitely, it is 100% worthy of the reader’s time. Did I absolutely love it? No, but I think that is maybe because it was so different to the style of writing I normally choose to read and it defies categorisation and pushed me out of my comfort zone. Would I recommend it to my friends? Yes, I would. I think it was an interesting book that anyone would get something from and any book that challenges our norms is to be encouraged. It does have some flaws, but that doesn’t detract from its value. And its cover is just the PERFECT representation of the book.

Now please excuse me, I’m off to book a flight to Savannah and a ticket to see Lady Chablis at Club One. If you want to know more about her, you’ll need to read the book. You can buy a copy of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil here.

About the Author

The son of two writers, John Berendt grew up in Syracuse, New York. He earned a B.A. in English from Harvard University, where he worked on the staff of The Harvard Lampoon. After graduating in 1961, he moved to New York City to pursue a career in publishing. Berendt has written for David Frost and Dick Cavett, was editor of New York magazine from 1977 to 1979, and wrote a monthly column for Esquire from 1982 to 1994.

Berendt first traveled to Savannah in the early 1980s. Over the ensuing eight years his visits became more frequent and extended, until he was spending more time in Savannah than in New York.

Part of the appeal, Berendt says, lay in the city’s penchant for morbid gossip.

Since the publication and unprecedented success of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Berendt has become a Savannah celebrity and was even presented with the key to the city.

 

Beach Lawyer by Avery Duff #bookreview

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“After five gruelling years, Robert Worth is just days away from making partner at a powerful Santa Monica law firm. When a client confides in him that senior partner Jack Pierce sexually assaulted her, Robert breaks two of his mentor’s cardinal rules: Never let yourself get emotional about clients. And never make an enemy of Jack Pierce.

Robert crosses Pierce and is fired on the spot, losing not only his job but also his reputation. Advised to go quietly, Robert vows revenge against the ruthless man who betrayed him. But his investigation uncovers a twisted shadow world of sex, infidelity, and deception, where nothing is as it seems and no one can be trusted. Only one thing is clear: Pierce will go the limit to keep his secrets.

This straight shooter will need to use every angle if he hopes to win. But could victory come at too high a price?”

From reading the blurb, I was eager to get stuck into this book as I was hoping that I could find a new author to rival to John Grisham. I love a good legal thriller and this book sounded extremely promising. Sadly, it fell very far short of my expectations.

There are multiple issues with this book, beginning with the pacing. This books starts off extremely slowly. I understand that the author is trying to establish the characters and their place in the hierarchy of the law firm as the footing for the story to come. Unfortunately, he chooses to do this by going into tedious detail of the everyday technical running of a law firm, right down to the minutiae of how lawyers record their time for billing purposes. None of this has any bearing on the plot whatsoever and just serves to drag the story to a crawl, right at the point where it should be grabbing our attention. The opening chapters also include a lot of legal jargon which I imagine would be largely incomprehensible to a non-lawyer – even I struggled – and it really didn’t seem necessary to advance the understanding of the story. There also appeared to be some things happening which, as a lawyer, just didn’t ring true to me at all, unless the US legal profession is totally different to the UK one in fundamental ways. This would probably be unnoticeable to people without a legal background but I have never felt like this when reading an American legal thriller before.

I was also excessively annoyed in the opening chapters by some lazy errors; in grammar, in tense and in a very simple calculation on one page which made me wonder if this book had been edited by anyone other than the author at all, and I continued to feel like that throughout the book.

Further problems in the opening chapters came in the guise of over-writing, stilted descriptions and an uncomfortable use of language. To be honest, it made me cringe quite a lot, and again I wondered if this book had been professionally edited. I tried to make allowances for the fact that this is his first novel and, to be fair, it did seem to settle into a better rhythm further on but I guess I set off on the journey with a less than favourable impression from the opening chapters, which was unfortunate.

We then move on to the plot, which is both so twisted and labyrinthine as to be almost incomprehensible by the end and, at the same time, totally lacking in any real action until the very last pages, where a brief flurry is shoe-horned in, in order to fulfil the ‘thriller’ tag. It really was one of the most unevenly paced books I have ever read. There were so many twists in who were the baddies, who were the heroes and what everyone’s motives were for doing what they did that it was almost nonsensical. When it came down to it, I just didn’t really believe that so many unpleasant, selfish, immoral people with devious intent happened to co-exist in one tiny orbit.

The most damning issue of all was the complete lack of empathy I had all the way through with any of the characters. They were all unpleasant, they were all uncharismatic, they were all shallow and self-centred. I could not bring myself to care what became of any of them. That was the biggest problem – by the end of the book I really just did not care what happened, I just wanted it to be over. Basically, it was too much hard work for too little return, not at all what I personally am looking for in a book of this nature.

I really wanted to like this book and I hate giving a negative review but this book was very disappointing and I couldn’t hand on heart recommend it. However, this is just my opinion and it appears from other reviews that many people loved it. May be I went into it with too high an expectation. If you would like to read it and make your own judgement, the book is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

Avery Duff was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he attended Baylor School and graduated summa cum laude. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he earned a JD from Georgetown University Law Center. He then joined a prestigious Tennessee law firm, becoming a partner in five years, before moving to Los Angeles. His screenwriting credits include the 2010 heist drama Takers, starring Matt Dillon, Idris Elba, Paul Walker, and Hayden Christensen. Duff lives at the beach in Los Angeles and spends his time writing fiction. Beach Lawyer is his first published novel.