Sunday, 16 April 2017


I was in the middle of Penny Vincenzi’s THE BEST OF TIMES (Headline, 2009) when my hubby phoned to say that he had had a major car accident on the freeway. He had lost control on the icy road and the vehicle rolled over twice. Fortunately—and miraculously—he was left with only a sprained shoulder besides having had the fright of his life. THE BEST OF TIMES deals with the same topic that unexpectedly hit close to home, the after-effect of a devastating car crash on a bunch of victims and rescuers. From the inspiring actress who yearns to forget she even was in the lorry that started it all to the kind-hearted married doctor who pays dearly for having had his mistress on sight, not to mention the star-crossed lovers who almost lost the chance or reuniting after 60 years—those are only some of the fascinating people highlighted in this doorstopper of a novel. 

Indeed, THE BEST OF TIMES reaches 880 pages and not once does it feel overwritten. It is an easy breezy read from cover to cover. The author is an ace at delivering multi-plotted situations. Her narrative, as well as her characterization, is fresh and oh so well-handled. I could go on and on praising the novel, just as I could go on and on talking about the plot and subplots but as always I prefer saying as little as possible so you can savor it just as I did. One thing I will admit, however, is that throughout my reading journey many a time I found myself smiling, cringing, and shedding a tear or two while hoping resolutions would eventually come for these lovable but flawed people. Many nights I stayed awake just to get to that finish line of a conclusion. I would have read hundreds of pages more, even, had it been the case.  

Those who religiously follow this blog may remember me stating that I intended to read Penny Vincenzi’s novels chronologically. I am of course aware that I skipped many titles to get to this one. The reason might be the parallel it has with the accident my hubby experienced on that faithful day. I believe nothing is left for chance. Color me gullible but THE BEST OF TIMES may have been right there just so I could cope better with the situation. When death is just around the corner, the perspective of mortality becomes a whole new ballgame. I believe that what these fictitious people went through gave me the leeway to a connection far beyond my imagination. Farfetched to some perhaps but to me it’s clear as daylight. And for that, Miss Vincenzi, I will always be grateful. 
You can still get this title wherever digital or conventional books are sold.


Until next post—Martin

US edition


Sunday, 9 April 2017


I recently read PILLOWFACE and BIGFOOT BEACH by Kristopher Rufty and enjoyed them so  much that when NetGalley offered SOMETHING VIOLENT (DarkFuse) in exchange for an honest review, I just couldn’t pass it up. It is fair to say that Rufty has entered the realms of the new breed of horror writers who prefer the in-your-face tactic over the slow-burning approach. When the result of that makes for an impossible to put down shocker like any of those first mentioned two titles, the reader has no choice but to ask for more of the same. SOMETHING VIOLENT is that kind of a book. The plot may be a tad different but the execution is cut and paste.    

Indeed, taking a cue from Bryan Smith’s work mostly, Rufty delivers a tale that is high-strung on violence but surprisingly very light on characterization. The duo work of his protagonists—or should we say antagonists since they are famed serial killers after all—may be despicable for all the obvious reasons but their union sure is far from that. Like any couple who just happens to love slaying people, there is a bump in their relationship. It’s up to a kidnapped therapist to save their fading romance—if he doesn’t get killed first. 

Told in alternative points of view, SOMETHING VIOLENT is overall fun if you don’t wallow too much in its cold serving. Despite having a fast-paced tag and a lively narrative the book suffers from a lack of sympathy for its fearsome twosome. Obviously they are meant not to be taken too seriously but the overall effect of their sordid ways can become irksome after a while if little else is going on. Still SOMETHING VIOLENT is certainly worth checking-out just for the wild ride if offers and of course for the thrill of finding out if this romantic pair is indeed saved. Just enter with caution, that’s all.


SOMETHING VIOLENT is available wherever digital books are sold.


Until next post—Martin


Sunday, 2 April 2017


Why not focus yet again on an Elizabeth Gage novel, sweet readers, like her third outing THE MASTER STROKE (Pocket Books, 1992) which, by the way, has nothing to do with Picasso or the likes (that would be INTIMATE, her latter work). Indeed, this time it’s the birth of the computer that dominates this energic tale of passion and revenge which starts in the mid-50s and ends up around the early ‘60s. Computers, really?! But don’t be fooled. If anyone could make an unsexy and bland topic riveting it certainly is Elizabeth Gage. The way her story unfolds—with her rich narrative, well-defined characterization and her astute chapter hooks—can only put THE MASTER STROKE in a class of its own. 

Of course the novel has its faults. Her provocative heroine may be an electronics genius but what an idiot she is at romance. In fact, all of Gage's characters stink at love. And boy does she make them suffer for it. From incest to rape to murder, THE MASTER STROKE screams of clich├ęs, yet with her skillful ways Gage succeeds in making this a powerful experience. Yes, good prevails over evil in the end, but the path to there is one heck of a ride, I’m telling you. 

Or am I just biased because it’s a Gage? The truth of the matter is I doubt it. I’ve been around this block too much to be clueless about that simple fact. So does THE MASTER STROKE make it Gage’s strongest book?  Not by a long shot. That would be her debut classic A GLIMPSE OF STOCKING. But compared to many novels of the same era it is certainly a strong one. I doubt you’ll be bored by it— again even with a topic as mundane as this one. It just proves to you that Elizabeth Gage could make anything fun, even her grocery list. 


Until next post—Martin
UK edition