August 2014 archive

One Minute Critique: Waiting For Doggo, by Mark B. Mills

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This novel’s no shaggy dog story: it’s as compact and as sweet as it’s eponymous small canine hero: Doggo. Waiting for Doggo is told from the viewpoint of the human Daniel (Dan), and opens with a letter from his girlfriend Clara who’s done a bunk. The letter tells Dan she’s left him, and the dog she adopted from Battersea Dog’s Home three weeks before (in a bid to salvage their relationship). This is news to Dan: the bit about their relationship being in need of salvaging, not the bit about the distrustful Doggo staring at him in the corner.

Mills plunges you straight into the ratty-dog race that’s Dan’s life, right when things are looking pretty pawful (sorry). Jobless, girlfriendless, and lumbered with a dog ugly …er…dog, things for Dan are pretty shih tzu (I’ll stop soon). But on a wag and a prayer he and his hound turn things around. This is an endearing book that trots along at pace, punctuated with knowing humour and incites into urban living. We’ve had romance, and bromance, is Waiting For Doggo the dawn of domance? Here’s hoping. As a reader I easily invested in both Dan and Doggo, the latter reducing me to crying in public at one point (no spoilers).

The bound of the plot was so energetic; it felt briefly that Mills himself was caught off-guard by its abrupt ending. Swift paragraphs rounded off the various story strands, and had me wondering just who or what was the main focus of the tale? But only fleetingly. A writer as tight as Mills, and with his history of screenwriting, has surely allowed the narrative to continue. And I, for one, would vote for this Doggo to have another day. Sequel, please.

Waiting For Doggo, Mark B. Mills: A wonderful tail (ahem) 4/5

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One Minute Critique: The Telling Error, by Sophie Hannah

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Okay, I’m going to just come out and say it: I need to stop reading books that are halfway through a series. I was drawn to Sophie Hannah’s The Telling Error because, among other things, its plot involves secret online personas, Twitter spats and, well, the Internet. Oh, how I love the Internet. But my Internet-based attraction ignored that The Telling Error is part of the successful Culver Valley Crime series. So, as I have experienced before with books read out of sequence, I found this slow to get into. I don’t have the character investment those familiar with the series presumably do. I also found there to be a confusing (and possibly deliberately so) number of characters. As I read this on a Kindle I really wished I had the real deal in my hands, in order to flick back and check who was who.

That said, once my brain had caught up I found this to be a gripping and darkly comic tale. When a key character revealed the reason for their dissatisfaction with their partner I genuinely laughed out loud. Hannah has clearly had a lot of fun writing this and, (once I’d really got stuck in), the reader is in on the joke.

Laughs aside, there is genuine fear and apprehension to be found in these pages, and Hannah’s analysis of the human character feels uncomfortably like the ugly truth. (Please note this book doesn’t contain overly gruesome detail of dead bodies: always a plus in my eyes!) An interesting premise for existing fans, but new arrivals may be better starting at the beginning of the Culver Valley series.

The Telling Error, Sophie Hannah: My bad: 3.5/5


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One Minute Critique: Heart Shaped Bruise, by Tanya Byrne

| One Minute Critique, One Minute Critique Books


Heart Shaped Bruise is a cracking Young Adult Crime/Adult Crime crossover. This is the tense angst-driven story of 17-year-old Emily Koll who, for reasons that become clear, adopted a different name and infiltrated the life of 16-year-old Juliet Shaw (who happens to have stabbed Emily’s father). It’s a brilliant premise.

Please note if you are buying this for your teen there is some swearing, some underage drinking and smoking, and brief mentions of sex (though there’s nothing graphic and everything happens ‘off page’). There are also some hefty themes of: media manipulation, anger management, living up to your parents’ expectations, first love, loss, suicide, and (minimal and not gratuitous) violence.

Written as if Emily’s journal while in Archway Young Offenders Institution, this desperate smear of emotions pulled me toward the revelation of Emily’s darkest secret in two sittings. The big twist comes brutal and swift (even though I have to confess I’d guessed what it would be. Don’t read too much into that: as a writer I understand the ebb and flow of plot. I also spot seemingly unnecessary sentences that have been left in for plot purposes which would otherwise have been edited out of a tightly written text like this).

Byrne’s writing style is gripping and occasionally packs real punch. I shall remember this sentence forever: ‘The moment I’d had enough of flicking matches at her and finally set light to everything she had’.

A riveting read for adults, young and mature alike, this book leaves a stain after it’s finished. Much like a bruise that takes time to heal.

Heart Shaped Bruise, Tanya Byrne: I <3 this 4/5

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