My Grandfather’s Eyes by B.A. Spicer

The first thing to say about My Grandfather’s Eyes is that it’s a most unusual and original novel. The second thing is once you start reading it you can’t stop. It’s a fascinating and intriguing story that explores some of the less attractive aspects of human nature. The protagonist is Alex Crane who must surely be a contender for one of the most selfish, self-centred and egotistical characters of twenty first century fiction so far. The remarkable thing is that even though she is such an unpleasant character her story is completely riveting and you become totally absorbed in her life. You learn early on about her ‘nevi’ and speculate constantly as to the role they have played in the development of her personality.

It is difficult to comment about the plot without giving something away that will spoil the surprises, of which there are many. The twists and turns as the story develops are complex and even when you correctly guess where the plot is going something unpredictable happens which throws you off balance.

The author handles time really well. The novel starts at the present and goes back to various times in Alex’s life which she re-lives or rehearses again but the juxtaposition of various parts of her past with other parts of her past and also with the present gives the novel its drive and energy.

When Alex is in her childhood the writing style reflects her immaturity and it gradually changes as she gets older. Consequently you feel as though you know her really well and as the novel moves towards its denouement you understand what she is feeling.

The ending is shockingly revelatory as you think you have got to the end before you find there is actually a bit more. The novel is cleverly constructed. The contrasting episodes from different parts of Alex’s life inform the reader’s understanding of her relationships with family, husband, extended family, colleagues and her special friend.

Essentially My Grandfather’s Eyes is a love story but not of the conventional kind. There is so much in this novel with a variety of sub-plots all of which interlink with the unfolding story of Alex’s life.

If you’ve read any of Bev (B.A.) Spicer’s other books you will know what a good writer she is. (Check out my reviews of Bunny on a Bike and Angels earlier in the blog). 

My Grandfather’s Eyes affirms every opinion I have about the excellence of her writing. Apart from a few editorial glitches in one part of the book this a novel of the very highest quality and well deserving of five stars or more.

Get details of all B.A. (Bev) Spicer's books on her author page at Amazon UK or US.

600 Miles – A Post Apocalyptic Adventure by G.P.Grewal

American author G.P. Grewal has a Blog and it was while reading this I realised his fourth novel was due for publication with the intriguing introduction “The Road meets The Road Warrior meets…a Western?”

I’d enjoyed reading his earlier novels (see a previous blogpost) and wasted no time in downloading 600 Miles as soon as it was released.

Post Apocalyptic fiction isn’t my first choice for reading matter. Probably H.G.Wells’ War of the Worlds and Neville Shute’s On the Beach were my only sorties into the genre until recently. Since I’ve been on my indie book journey I’ve read more of the genre: I Know You Will Find Me by David Harris Wilson, 2032 by A.S. Anand and Sleeps with the Fishes by Nigel Bird might, arguably, all fit into the category; and I read The Time Machine a few weeks ago too.

Actually, I was a bit confused by the terminology so did some research (well, looked on Wikipedia) to sort out the apocalyptic (the world is crumbling) from the post-apocalyptic (the world has crumbled and how the characters cope with it) from the dystopian (the future world appears to be perfect but in fact is just the opposite) …… and decided that it doesn’t really matter what the label is so long as it’s well written, engaging, page-turning, thought provoking, entertaining and utterly convincing. Which is what 600 Miles– A Post Apocalyptic Adventure is.

Elgin is the narrator in 600 Miles and he is on a journey from Arizona to California hoping to take in the city of Los Angeles in the process and his main problem is that he is walking there because the story is set several decades into the future in a world of complete chaos. The cause of the apocalypse is hinted at and appears to have been all out war between the state and the people but this all happened years ago; Elgin only knows a hand to mouth existence in a world which has sunk to basest depravity and his frequent dispassionate observations of “skellies” tells you how bad things are.

The story is Elgin’s life over the several months of his journey; the places he passes through; the people he meets. It is a love story in the most unlikely of circumstances and an exploration of Elgin’s personality as he tries to cope with the tribulations and challenges of survival. The story is full of unexpected developments and at times is tense, exciting and shocking. It is a well written novel but what I thought was exceptionally good was the way Elgin’s voice comes through with a slow deliberation resonant of a time much earlier than the Armageddon.

There are several really interesting characters in addition to Elgin particularly Gitty and Roy who make up Elgin’s eternal triangle and are his companions for much of his journey.

I thought 600 Miles was really good. It’s been interesting to watch G.P.Grewal’s writing style change as you read through each of the other books and 600 Miles takes him off in a new and unusual direction. The writing is still literary but firmly placed within the specific genre. As a consequence it makes the reader question real world pre-conceptions to speculate as to the likely probability of our own experience ending up like Elgin’s.

The ending of the book is, I suspect, deliberately vague and lends itself to a sequel which I for one would be quick to download.

Get details of 600 Miles – A Post Apocalyptic Adventure and G.P. Grewal’s other books on his Amazon Author Page USA, Amazon Author Page UK, or his Blog.

Peacock and Dragon by Jenny Worstall

I’ve already read a collection of short stories by Jenny Worstall (Infant Barbarian) and her romantic comedy novel (Make A Joyful Noise) so I was expecting to find some more light, charming writing about family relationships in Peacock and Dragon, her new collection of short stories. Certainly the stories are about family relationships and they are light, easy-to-read stories written in her same clear, direct style but these stories have slightly darker overtones with hints of the paranormal and I think they are her best yet.

At the start of Peacock and Dragon the author has written “With apologies to William Morris”. This sent me on a Google search and now I know a lot more about Morris’ designs than I did a few days ago; the titles are not all references to his designs though. The Morris theme threads through the stories and inspires much of the descriptive writing as well as the titles.

In Strawberry Thief there is a picture of domestic bliss and harmony until something shocking and unexpected happens. The story line is fairly predictable but it gets an unusual twist and is made much more interesting by the hint of the “ghost story” which permeates it.

Peacock and Dragon has a set of parents with an unusually old fashioned approach to a teenage pregnancy in the twenty first century. Fortunately Jasmine has a good friend with a sensible head on her shoulders who is able to stand by her and all ends happily ever after. The twist is in the advice of a maternity nurse who has seen it all before and her contribution to the story lifts it to another level of interest.

Love is Enough is about a failure to trust and communicate which leads to devastating consequences when drama reflects life and life reflects drama. At first I thought this story was funny but as it evolved it became rather tragic and the ending was blunt and final.

The opening chapters of Make a Joyful Noise are included at the end of the collection and there is enough there to help you decide if you want to read the whole thing which I would certainly recommend.

Peacock and Dragon is a very readable collection of short stories. It’s a good introduction to Jenny Worstall’s writing and if you’re already familiar with her work you'll find an interesting development in her skills as a short story writer.

You can find details of all Jenny Worstall’s books on her author page at Amazon UK or Amazon USA.