Category Archives: Novella Week 2016

**Novella Week** Review – A Christmas In Cornwall by Laura Briggs

A Christmas in Cornwall

The Blurb

It’s Julianne Morgen’s first Christmas in the Cornish village of Ceffylgwyn, and life seems perfect.  Her job as an event planner couldn’t be better, she’s beginning to feel at home despite being an American in a tiny English village, and her relationship with handsome English horticulturist Matthew Rose continues to slowly blossom from friendship to love.

But when an old flame of Julianne’s appears on the spot, she finds herself tangled up in her own past.  A grand charitable ball planned at Cliffs House for Christmas brings it’s own challenges to Julianne’s world, along with a last-minute wedding in London.  And when she learns that Matthew’s former career in America has invited him back, she worries about what it means for their future together if he says ‘yes’.

Number of pages – 95.

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed A Wedding In Cornwall and so looked forward to catching up with Julianne, Matt and all the staff at Cliffs house in this second instalment of Laura’s series.

Julianne has settled into her life in Cornwall and her fledgling relationship with Matt is going well. However, the course of true love does not always run smoothly and it appears that fate may be conspiring against the couple.

A Christmas In Cornwall is very much a classic love story with an added gorgeous setting and a sprinkling of Christmas sparkle. The characters are great and you can’t help but like Julianne, Matt and the rest of the staff at Cliffs House. I got completely absorbed in Julianne’s life and it felt like spending time with an old friend. Unsure of the status of their fledgling relationship, I found myself rooting for Julianne and Matt and hoping their relationship would work out.

Once again, Laura has done a great job of describing Cornwall and the village creating a really warm feel throughout the novella. It still amazes me that Laura has never actually been to Cornwall and she must have undertaken a lot of research.

A lovely festive novella. Great if you want to while away a winter’s afternoon with a light-hearted read.

Thank you to Laura Briggs for my copy in exchange for my unbiased review.

You can purchase a copy HERE.


**Novella Week** Review – Fresh Air And Empty Streets by Oliver Cable

Fresh Air and Empty Streets

The Blurb

All we are is fresh air and empty streets.

Fifteen years after Alexander left his wife and young child to pursue the life of an artist in Paris, his son Felix is on his doorstep, looking for answers.  On a journey through smoky jazz bars, artist’s studios and along the banks of the Seine, Felix meets the father he never knew, and in doing so, comes to question some lifelong assumptions.

Number of pages – 140

My Thoughts

In his debut novella Fresh Air And Empty Streets Oliver Cable takes us on a meandering tale of loss, anger, reconciliation and self-discovery along the river Seine in Paris.

Felix has travelled to Paris to meet the father who left him and his mother when he was a young child to pursue his dream of being an artist in Paris. Felix, understandably, finds it difficult to fathom why his father, Alexander, left him all those years ago and feels a degree of animosity towards him. What he doesn’t expect is to make discoveries about himself, his beliefs and to feel an empathy with the man who caused him and his mother so much pain and heartache.

It is clear through his prose that Oliver has a deep love for jazz, art and literature and through these mediums Felix discovers things about himself he wasn’t expecting. As he becomes involved in his father’s artistic lifestyle he begins to understand the power of the pull of Alexander’s creative side and realises that there are always more than one perspective, whether that be of events, life and the arts. Felix is searching for his father but the ultimate search is for himself. Oliver uses a lot of dream sequences to convey to the reader how Felix is feeling at the time and make sense of his feelings.

Oliver is a poet at heart and this comes through in his writing. He captures the essence of Paris whilst also capturing the loneliness Felix feels when he initially arrives in the city. The joy of this book is through the descriptions and the self discoveries that Felix makes rather than any fast paced excitement or drama. He sums up perfectly how I feel about reading and why I love hearing of other people’s interpretations of the written word;

‘ “I consider that the beauty of a painting – it can be anything to anyone. Come to think of it, that holds true for music, literature, dance, you name it. People will look at it through their own frame of reference. Of course they’ll read something else into it than you will.” ’

This is a steady paced book in which the joy comes through the beauty of the prose. If you enjoy books that take more of a philosophical perspective and rely heavily on descriptions of music, surroundings and art to convey the emotions of the character rather than high drama than you will enjoy it.

A beguiling short read quite unlike anything I have read recently, Fresh Air And Empty Streets took me on an evocative journey through the jazz bars of Paris and made me think about how what you believe to be true is never as straight forward as you think. An accomplished debut novel.

Thank you to Oliver Cable for the copy of the book in exchange for my review.

Published on 1 July 2016 by Oliver Cable.

You can purchase a copy HERE.

**Novella Week** Review – Errors Of Evaluation by Paola Pica

Errors of Evaluation

The Blurb

Francesca’s presence pervades the lives of those she meets. 

She leaves an indelible mark, the true nature of her personality revealed through other people’s encounters with her. 

Her boldness as a spoilt child.  Her temporary (and just) suffering as the victim of a shrink – an ambiguous and even more unscrupulous person than her in grasping anything graspable.  And the more than explicit revelation of her blind egocentrism, because of which she ignores the one person who has tried tirelessly to help her. 

Three very different characters tell the same story about the enigmatic woman who has entered their lives, each one illuminating who Francesca really is, from their own point of view.  Each character has made an error of evaluation which they realise has prejudiced their lives and their relationships.  An omniscient narrator will have the final say. 

This is the first version in English of Errors of Evaluation by the Italian writer Paola Pica and has been translated by Janice Burberry.

Number of pages – 99.

My Thoughts

‘…it’s enough to know a person’s weak points to do what you want with him.’

Several days after I finished reading Errors of Evaluation I’m still not sure what I think of it or how much I liked it. This very rarely happens to me, I’m usually quite sure of my opinions but this novella has puzzled me, which I guess could be a good thing but it hasn’t made it easy to write this review.

Paola has written a book that concentrates very firmly on four characters. That of Francesca, who the book is essentially about and the three characters who are telling their story of her – Marco, Massimo and Elena. I generally love to hate a character and within Errors of Evaluation there is little to like about any of the characters with the exception of Elena. Francesca has left a definite mark on those she has come into contact with and Marco, Massimo and Elena each give their view of her. The first three chapters are narrated in the first person by each with the fourth chapter being told in the third person. The total detachment from the main character, Francesca, through the lack of her voice and yet the unique insight the reader gets into her personality works really well.

A tale of control and manipulation, initially I felt that Francesca, although spoilt and narcissistic, was the victim of the men who manipulated her in order to keep her as their trophy. As the book progresses, however, it would appear that Francesca is as grasping as the men she has been in relationships with and manipulates them to meet her own needs. The question for me at the end was who was the greatest at the art of deception?

Paola has created utterly contemptible, unscrupulous characters. She uses a mix of psychological theories to explore the darker side of relationships. Each believes they knew Francesca but at the end they discover that this was not the case and each has been wrong in their assessment of her.

Translated incredibly well and with a beautiful use of language, I really enjoyed the prose in Errors Of Evaluation. It has a very European feel about it despite their being little indication of the setting in Italy. This is a very character-based book and despite the lack of surrounding description I felt myself drawn into it and into their strange psyches.

Very much unlike anything I have read recently I’m not sure that this book will appeal to everybody. If you have an interest in psychology and a penchant for the despicable, you will enjoy Errors Of Evaluation.

Thank you to Paola Pica and Authoright for the copy of Errors Of Evaluation.

Published 26 July 2016 by Clink Street Publishing.

You can purchase a copy HERE.

**Novella Week** Review – A Time To Tour Ghost City by Anjum Noor Choudhury

A time to tour ghost city

The Blurb

A young woman on vacation with her parents discovers she can see ghosts in the Stone City of  the Crescent Valley.  When her parents are taken hostage by a rogue tour guide, she must mediate with one of the ghosts to get them back.  But ghosts are the least of her problems in this perilous adventure that takes her back thousands of years, to a time when the Valley flourished with life and a legendary brotherhood roamed it’s sands.

Number of pages – 48.

My Thoughts

A wonderful setting, ghosts, and a plucky heroine make A Time to Tour Ghost City an entertaining quick read.

Leela is on holiday in the Crescent Valley with her parents when their tour guide, Altaf, on realising Leela can see the ghosts of the Stone City, takes her parents hostage. In order to free her parents, Leela must help him find the hidden treasure of the Stone City.

As Leela has to negotiate the Stone City and the ghosts that live there in order to assist the guide, they are not prepared for what happens during their mission as it takes them to where they never thought it was possible to go. What ensues is a fast paced story.

Rich descriptions of the Stone City in the present and past conjured up images of Petra for me as Anjum leads us on an Arabian adventure with all the sights, sounds and heat of the setting. She has done a great job of setting the scene and immersing the reader in the surroundings.

I loved the fact that the main characters were Indian and Arabian. I did, however, find it a little difficult to connect with the two main characters which may in part be due to the length of the book as there was not much room for character development. The characters did not feel authentic to me and the relationship between Leela and Altaf was inconsistent at times.

On the whole A Time To Tour Ghost City is an enjoyable easy read reminiscent of Ali Baba but with a modern twist.

Thank you to Anjum Choudhury for the copy of A Time To Tour Ghost City.

Published on 23 August 2016 by Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.

You can purchase a copy HERE.

**Novella Week** Review – Thurso by P James Callaghan


The Blurb

Rob is running from a drab life and a loveless marriage.  David is running from something but he doesn’t know what.  Alistair would like to run but his dad keeps him locked in his room.  Their paths will inevitably cross but whose life will be changed forever?  Thurso is a novel about cause and effect, memory and guilt.  P James Callaghan does not shy away from his depictions of abuse and mental illness.  But Thurso is also a novel about remorse and redemption.  Callaghan writes efficiently and precisely, with dark humour and an eye for the wondrous in the mundane.

Number of pages – 138

My Thoughts

Thurso is an intriguing book about three people who all have one thing in common – the town of Thurso. Trying to escape to or from Thurso, this very character based book tells the story of the people over the course of eight days.

David is trying to get to Thurso and it is clear from the outset that he is suffering from mental health difficulties. Rob is running away from his relationship difficulties. Alistair is desperate to get away from Thurso and his domineering father. Getting their unique individual perspectives, this book gradually unravels each character’s story.

Thurso touches on mental health issues, abuse and generally the darker aspects of human beings and it is unflinching and raw in it’s portrayal of the subject matters. There are, however, touches of black humour that lighten what could otherwise be an all encompassing sombre mood.

I could not help but be moved by David and Alistair’s stories. The writing is to the point and with no dressing up in relation to Alistair and this can make for uncomfortable reading which may be difficult for some, however it is, I feel, necessary to the story. Rob made me feel uneasy and he was not a character that I warmed to but by the end I understood him and felt a degree of empathy for him. Callaghan has, in Rob’s story, touched on the feelings and behaviour that takes place when a relationship is floundering with an emotional acuity.

Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Scottish Highlands, Callaghan has used the scenery to create atmosphere and tension within Thurso and this adds to the bleakness experienced when reading . This is particularly effective in David’s story as the similes used to describe the surrounding countryside sums up David’s state of mind;

‘He heard the forest dozing. The trees stood round a large shallow bowl like mourners round a grave.’

Further tension is added towards the end of the book as the chapters get shorter, pushing the story on towards it’s conclusion, a conclusion that made me re-evaluate what I had assumed about the characters. Callaghan effectively left me mulling over this book for a few days while I absorbed all that I had read.

A tale about the difficulties people can face and how they react to and process them, with unflinching and yet moving, carefully written descriptions of sensitive issues made Thurso an interesting book and an enjoyable read. A ‘make you think’, dark debut from P. James Callaghan, I look forward to reading more from this author.

A huge thank you to P. James Callaghan for the copy of Thurso.

Published 1 May 2016 by ITA Press.

You can purchase a copy HERE.

**Novella Week** Review – Atomic Number Sixty: Volume 1 (Sixty Minute Reads) by Dave Johnston

Over the past few months I have developed a real appreciation for the novella.  I had not read many novellas before and I was surprised by how much authors manage to put into these short books.  It has given me a real insight into the talent writers have to create a well rounded, multi-layered story in a shorter format.  This week I will be reviewing only novellas from a range of genres.  Great for reading during journeys, lunch breaks and while waiting for appointments I hope you enjoy the reviews I have for you this week and find a great, quick read. 

I am starting with Atomic Number Sixty the debut book by Dave Johnston.

Atomic Number Sixty

The Blurb

Holly Holloway is locked in a dusty room, strapped to a ticking bomb.  What would you do, if you only had one hour left to live?  Atomic Number Sixty is the first part of a thrilling series, with 60 chapters each set in real time taking the reader 1 minute to read.

Number of Pages – 147

My Review

I was really interested in Dave Johnston’s concept of writing a book consisting of sixty chapters which takes sixty minutes to read. I have to say this works brilliantly and is great if your looking for a quick read to pass away a journey or a lunch break.

Atomic Number Sixty tells the story of twenty-five year old Holly Holloway who has been taken hostage and has exactly sixty minutes until the bomb she is attached to detonates.

This is a super fast-paced thriller, the short chapters and the minutes at the head of each chapter add to the frantic pace of the book. I really liked the way this book is constructed. I was hooked from the very first chapter. Don‘t be deceived by the length of Atomic Number Sixty…Dave has managed to pack a lot in, creating a well-rounded story.

Holly is a sassy, funny, strong young woman and I warmed to her and her family immediately. Dave has managed to get you fully involved with the characters in a short space of time. He has interspersed the story with Holly reflecting on her past giving a real sense of who she is. Written in first person narrative the reader is privy to Holly’s sarcastic sense of humour and her thoughts on life in general.

‘I wondered who was crazier. The brainwashed. Or the worms whispering in their ears, leading them on such a destructive path.’

The tension is built up brilliantly and the ending took me totally by surprise. I found myself devouring this book to find out if Holly would survive.

Definitely check Atomic Number Sixty out especially if you are wanting a quick read. This is a great debut and I look forward to reading more by Dave in this series.

Thanks to Dave Johnston for my copy.

Published on 1 August 2016 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

You can purchase your copy HERE.