Book Review – Things We Choose to Hide by Jane Riddell

April 12, 2021

This is an intriguing and well crafted novel which kept me reading right to the end.  The story centres on an English woman who falls in love with an Italian.  But he refuses to reveal his past which leads to difficulties for both of them.  The story moves between Italy, Sicily, Edinburgh (Scotland) and India.  It is very atmospheric and the characters are well drawn.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it to all readers who like narratives which keep the reader guessing.

Keith Jahans

Available from Amazon
as an ebook and paperback


Book Review – The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger

December 11, 2020

This book had been on my radar for some time now.  Then I saw that there was a new film out about Salinger which I wanted to see but I felt I should get on and read his most celebrated work first.

I had thought that given its title the narrative should be set in the countryside, rather like Cider With Rosie, which I have not read but have seen a film adaptation, but I was very much mistaken.  The title comes from a misquoted poem by Robert Burns and the story is set initially in the narrator’s private school then in New York where he navigates himself around this his home city.

He writes in a very adolescent style, reflecting the age of his protagonist and describes his attitude towards the people he meets on his journey and what he perceives is their attitude towards him.  But it is towards the end of the book that the meaning of the title becomes apparent and the reader can decide who the catcher is.

It is a compelling read and on the surface nothing much seems to happen but when I finished reading and gave it some thought I felt the content provided a fascinating commentary on the human condition.  I recommend that book lovers read it and work out any hidden meanings for themselves.

Keith Jahans

 

Published by Penguin in hardback,
paperback and as an ebook


Writing Violent Scenes

November 18, 2020

Violent scenes have more impact when they come as a surprise.  I am not talking about those in horror stories where the suspense leading up to the action is often more effective than the violence itself.  Battle scenes tend to be ongoing and have violence surrounding them but a sudden violent act amongst the turmoil can have a devastating effect.  A good example of this can be found in the book, “Against All Odds by Jacqui Murray,” which I reviewed recently.  Here the author expertly describes battles between primitive peoples but in the last battle the impact of a sudden violent act against an individual comes as a shock.

My novel “Magic Bullets,” opens in a prologue with violence perpetrated by a single terrorist.  This is not referred to again until well into the story but I hope has the reader wondering how this event effects the narrative.  I feel that placing such violence in a novel without any lead up to it can be much like what happens in life.  The real effect is in the aftermath and comes when the characters in the story deal with it.  Post traumatic stress is an occurrence which happens to many people who experience violence, including professional soldiers.  The skill of the writer is to examine how these effect the characters in the story.

 

Keith Jahans

Published by Peatmore Press
as a paperback and an ebook


Book Review – Against All Odds by Jacqui Murray

November 11, 2020

I normally review trilogies by reading the first book in the series but in this case I went against my norm by starting at the last first.  This maybe because I have a passing interest in writings about early man and had read some of the works by Jean M Auel, starting with The Clan of Cave Bear, and having enjoyed them.

In this work I did not feel a pressing need to go back into the history of the central character but felt that I knew enough about primitive humans to skip that part.  I may have missed out on some of the story but feel that any novel featuring the same central characters should be able to stand on its own.  I found this book in that regard was largely able to do that.  However, it contained a large assortment of characters with strangely spelt names which probably made who they were and how they interacted clearer if I had indeed started with the first book.

The author had done her research and obviously knew a great deal about the period of which she was writing.  This was clear not only from the list of references at the end but also of the descriptions she used in the narrative.  Giving such characters depth is a challenge in itself as primitive peoples were far more involved in surviving from day to day than interacting with each other in what we would describe as a social level today.  The author manages this extremely well, giving the objects, animals and people that surround them names that were possibly used by humans of that time.  The book is a fascinating read and I highly recommend it.

 

Keith Jahans

Published by Structured Learning LLC
in Paperback and as a Kindle E-book


Writing Sex Scenes

October 7, 2020

Writing sex scenes is a special skill which I do not have.  I have used such scenes sparingly in two of my novels and only when I felt they fit with the plot and when added they clarified the motivations behind some characters.  But sex sells.  One only has to look at the success of “Fifty Shades of Grey” and the popularity of erotic films and porn sites on the internet.  I must admit marketing was partly behind the decision I made when adding them to my novel “Victim of Compromise” but I still maintain that the scenes played a greater part in making the central characters more rounded.

The sales of DH Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” sky rocketed during a famous court case to overturn its ban and, more especially, after it became legal to buy in the UK.  On reading it I feel it would be a much lesser book if the explicit sex scenes and the language used to describe them were omitted.  Now that the Lady Chatterley milestone judgement has passed there are many contemporary writers who excel in the genre of modern erotic fiction.  One such author is Harmony Kent whose novel “Back Stage” I reviewed in my last blog.  I confess that, despite my past endeavours, I am not one of them.

Keith Jahans

Kindle Edition


Book Review – Backstage by Harmony Kent

August 3, 2020

This erotic romance encompasses most of the elements of the recent “Me Too” scandals when actresses have come forward to describe events in which they have been sexually abused by powerful men in the entertainment industry.  The characters in the book are well described, particularly the perpetrator and his female accomplice.  The sex scenes are graphically depicted and fit well within the narrative.  Some readers may be put off by the explicit content, which I found did not detract from the story itself.  Although described as a romance the novel is more of a thriller and the plot kept me turning the pages right to the end.

Keith Jahans

Published by Harmony Kent Author Servicesandals,
in paperback and as an ebook


Book Review – Frankly, My Dear by Don Manssenzio

July 16, 2020

I have a particular fondness for private detective novels, particularly those set in the USA and this one proved to be no exception.  The detectives involved here are clearly a close knit family.  All seemed to be involved in this story to some extent, including the detective’s dog, but the chief protagonists are the private detective, Frank Rozzani and his lawyer partner, Jonesy.

The plot is a twist on the normal narrative for this type of story, in that the detectives are asked to represent a man who has been accused of abusing his girlfriend.  All the characters are believable, especially the villains.  Rossani and Jonesey are accomplished jazz musicians and a little of the action revolves around their music and the club where they play.  I am not familiar with the music titles or the work of the artists referred to in the novel but the author is clearly a Jazz aficionado.

The pace is fast moving with a number of twists and turns which is a prerequisite of the genre.  I found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Keith Jahans

Published DSM Publications as
an ebook, paperback and audiobook


The worst thing that can happen to a writer

July 6, 2020

The worst thing that can happen to writers is that nobody reads their work.  I used to get upset when I found some of my books were being pirated, but then I realised that I was getting free publicity.  Many readers, when they finish a book they have enjoyed, pass it to friends or family members.  The book often ends up in a second hand or charity shop.  Authors have no choice but to accept this, but what is unacceptable is that there are unscrupulous individuals out there who exploit the endeavours of an author for their own gain.

Sometimes a reader will not like a book and may leave an unfavourable or even a bad review.  It happens as a writer cannot please everyone and hopefully those occasions will be very few.  But at least this person will have read the book.  Of course, if it happens too much then the author must seriously rethink how they go about their trade.  A new author or even an establish author will give away free copies of a new book in exchange for a review.  It is very unusual for a reviewer to take advantage of this and sell the book on, but it can happen.

I have been surprised to find some of my books for sale online for far more money than they are advertised by my own website or reputable book stores.  There is a market for early editions, especially those signed by the author.  Some early copies of my first books, complete with typing and formatting errors, have even ended up online for exorbitant amounts.  There is nothing an author can do about this.  But it is publicity and how much income authors can loose must be offset against the free publicity they get.

Most authors earn little from selling their work.  I know very few who earn a living from their writing full time.  They write because they enjoy their craft, but above all they love to bring enjoyment to readers.  The best thing that can happen to a writer is when a reader who you have never met picks up your book and writes to you to say how much they have enjoyed it.  Those are the moments I savour.

Keith Jahans


Book Review – Rosé’s Bent Stem by Nomita Khanna

June 29, 2020

This thriller took me a while to get use to the author’s writing style but once I did I found the story fascinating.  Nomita Khanna gets into the mind of a psychopath and narrates in the first person.  Thus much of the expressions used are disjointed and sometimes weird.  It is a valiant attempt to seek out what motivates a disturbed individual and I feel the writer succeeds in that attempt.  Like me readers might not at first fully understand what is going on here but if they stick with it they are in for a fascinating treat.

Keith Jahans

Independently published and available as an ebook and paperback


Words per Day

June 10, 2020

I am fortunate in that, as well as a writer, I am an independent publisher which means I do not have to set targets for my writing.  I write when and where I want to.  I had had enough having to keep to targets set by my bosses in my day job in the years before I retired.  This means that I can go for days without writing a single word, which is often the case as I am lazy.  But it also means that I have time to enjoy it.

I like to tell stories and periodically find myself compelled to write them down.  Sometimes I write several hundred words a day and on the odd occasion this rises to over a thousand.  But more often than not I struggle for words, so my output can be just a few sentences.  My first drafts contain all sorts of mistakes of continuity, spelling and grammar.  The plot can invariably not make much sense.  This is where the editing comes in where content gets changed, thrown out or even added.

I am slightly dyslexic and, fortunately, there are aids on line and in the writing community to help me.  Before the age of computers and word processors, I began writing my stories by hand, but this was a slow process as it made for much crossing out and rewriting.  I graduated to a portable typewriter and, as I was very much a novice typist, the process became even slower.  But then came PCs, the internet, online spellcheckers and grammar aids and I was away on my journey.  This technology, though brilliant, is not nearly enough, but the help I receive from the trusted readers I first show my work to is invaluable.

Keith Jahans


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