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Profile for Kate Cudahy > Reviews

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Kate Cudahy

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The Loney: Costa Winner 2015
The Loney: Costa Winner 2015
Price: £4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Uncompromising, compelling gothic, 10 Aug. 2016
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It's quite difficult to pin this book down in terms of genre. On its surface, at least, it appears to offer all the trappings of gothic horror: a dark, damp, semi-abandoned house on the Lancastrian coast called 'The Moorings.' A threatening group of wicker man style locals. A bleak, deserted stretch of coastline - the Loney - and an almost obvious contrast between the forces of good and evil. But what is almost always obvious begins to unravel fairly quickly, and what follows surpasses anything like the expectations of a classic gothic narrative.

This is rather a meditation on the nature of faith: on what supports it, and its fragility. Consequently, there are no gore-spattered schlock horror moments. The story is characterised by a chilling menace, the origins of which are never entirely clear until the few final chapters. And even then, the devasating, almost unbearable conclusion of 'The Loney' is delivered with a measure of ambiguity, leaving it to the reader to fill in the gaps: to compensate for the amnesia inherent in the narrator's account.

It's a story delivered in prose which is all the more powerful for its level of understatement, for the razor sharp metaphors that Hurley employs, and for an eloquence which at once distances and draws the reader in. In this way, we become both voyeur and participant, aware of how the story is gradually unpegging us from our moorings - that detail can't be an accident - yet unable to look away. This is Hurley's debut, and I can't wait to read more of his work.


Girl Under the Gun: Episode 3
Girl Under the Gun: Episode 3
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5.0 out of 5 stars Bond style wit and fast paced action, 10 Aug. 2016
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Part Three of 'Girl under the Gun' by Rob May sees L.J. and Grant leave New York and head for safety in a deviously acquired Ford Mustang. What follows is more great action, involving car chases, treasure hunts and slow burning romance. Lots of dark humour, Bond style repartee and the cliff hanger at the end was pure brilliance. Can't wait for the next part!


Girl Under the Gun: Episode 2
Girl Under the Gun: Episode 2
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5.0 out of 5 stars fun, high octane adventure, 10 Aug. 2016
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LJ and Grant arrrive in New York just in time to hear her father's will read. What follows is a wild, high octane adventure set in New York, fighting off potential terrorists on the way, encountering long lost family members and code cracking as they go. And on top of that, there's the whole smouldering chemistry of will they, won't they to enjoy. Strongly recommended.


The Fateful Flame (A Prelude to Empire of Dragons)
The Fateful Flame (A Prelude to Empire of Dragons)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Short story, great adventure, 4 May 2016
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A great short story which cunningly links Rob May's earlier work with his most recent books. It's packed full of surprises and is a compelling adventure in its own right, while at the same time developing the lore and themes explored in the first books in this series. Highly recommended.


Ghostwritten
Ghostwritten
Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Mitchell addiction, 3 Feb. 2016
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This review is from: Ghostwritten (Kindle Edition)
I still can’t quite believe that this was a first novel. It read far more like the work of an author who already has several great works under his belt and has finally decided to produce their “real masterpiece.”

In fact I’ve already read Cloud Atlas and the 1001 Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, so perhaps I was inclined to be biased. But I never expected anything quite so lateral in terms of narrative structure, so intricate in terms of plotting, or so profound in terms of concept.

It’s a book that I immediately wanted to rediscover as soon as I’d finished it. Part of the fun of reading Mitchell’s work is the way his stories interlock. It almost becomes a compulsion to trace all the little overlaps and twists which precede and follow from one narrative to the next. But what makes the experience of reading Ghostwritten even more rewarding, is the growing awareness that all these little points of literary triangulation add up to something so much bigger. Something really big.

This is, after all, a novel about the relationship between contingency and fate – about the way we structure our lives around narrative to give them meaning, about our inability to see the hidden points of connection, and ultimately I guess about our ability to tweak those points in order to radically change the world we live in. It’s a story which is global in scale, but never loses sight of detail, a book in which each character’s perspective sucks the reader into an entirely new reality which, fractal-like, functions as a miniature of the whole story.

Just absolutely loved it. Can’t get enough of Mitchell’s work. He has to be one of the most significant writers of modern times.


Spectacles
Spectacles
Price: £4.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars funny enough to deserve a health warning, 20 Dec. 2015
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This review is from: Spectacles (Kindle Edition)
An ex of mine once claimed that it should be possible to claim the equivalent of nectar points for converting girls to the worthy cause of lesbianism. These could be cashed in for microwaves, TVs, fridges etc. Ever since, I've found myself wondering whether Sue Perkins might not be up to her ears in white goods.
OK that was an aside - never a good place to start a review. But on the other hand, that's one of the very qualities which makes Perkin's memoirs 'Spectacles' so appealing - wild tangential leaps, narratives which spiral manically from their starting point, a lateral, grasshopper style which links apparently disconnected events in her life, making for a read which hovers on the fringes between laugh-out-loud hilarious and sobering - even at times disturbing.
What I particularly loved about this biography is the way she gives just enough of herself away, without dredging too deep: without this turning into some kind of introspective naval gazing. This is achieved through the same acute, self-deprecating wit which makes her such an attractive, charismatic TV host and presenter. There were times when I laughed so hard I worried for the safety of my internal organs, and times when she addressed some incredibly painful moments head on, saccharine free and with a courageous level of honesty.
If you like her work - and I must admit I'm a big fan - you'll love this book.


Wolf Hall & Bring Up The Bodies: Two-Book Edition
Wolf Hall & Bring Up The Bodies: Two-Book Edition
Price: £11.49

5.0 out of 5 stars A fresh take on historical fiction, 22 Sept. 2015
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This is just my reaction to Wolf Hall - I'm saving myself for a later date with Ms Mantel and Bring up the Bodies. But I was so excited about this book, I couldn't keep schtum so here goes.

As usual with prize winning novels that everyone else has already read, I'm late to the party on this one. And I regret that - because this was without a doubt the best book I've read so far this year. What I liked in particular was that Mantel took what is essentially a very familiar story and did something so fresh with it, so different, that it felt as if I were encountering it for the first time.

I think the fact she chooses to tell this from Cromwell's perspective was an absolute stroke of genius - because as a character he spans the chasm between outsider and insider: a blacksmith's boy, a common man who at the same time becomes party to some of the country's most prized secrets. Both an observer and a player, it's his genius for manipulation, his intellectual graft which really drives the narrative and sucks the reader into his world.

Mantel's decision to write in present tense also brought an immediacy to the story which is often lacking from historical fiction. And her idiosyncratic syntax was a very clever way of personalising the narrative even further - it really felt as if she were getting inside Cromwell's mind. The non-chronological structure was also a challenge to traditional methods of narrating historical fiction. Why should writers cling to boring, linear methods of relaying a past which we don't necessarily remember in straight lines? Why shouldn't the narrative hop about as erratically and as fluidly as Cromwell's memories and patterns of thought?

It's a novel which made me entirely rethink the way in which I personally feel about this epic period in British history, a period which would usher in the battle for freedom of conscience, in which the most privately held beliefs would hold public importance and in which the thoughts and deeds of normal men and women would eventually become as significant as those of monarchs. There's nothing overtly stylised or romanticising about Wolf Hall, and it's probably the first work of historical fiction I've ever read which made me feel I was reading about genuine people with genuine lives and problems. I found it totally absorbing and can't wait to read more of Mantel's fiction


Starting Over (Starling Hill Trilogy Book 1)
Starting Over (Starling Hill Trilogy Book 1)
Price: £4.43

4.0 out of 5 stars Funny, romantic and beautifully written, 2 Sept. 2015
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First off, I want to say that I really enjoyed this book. I read it in a matter of days, which is quite unusual for me - I'm a slow reader - and I couldn't wait to find out if heartbroken potter Ellie would manage to repair her relationship with her philandering lover, Robin. Not only that, but the mystery of who was buried beneath the fields at Starling Hill really kept me on the edge of my chair.

Having said that, I did have one or two quibbles with what is fundamentally a great read. My first point in this respect would be that we find out a lot about the history behind Ellie and Robin's relationship in the first part of the novel, but this is relayed through a series of slightly clunky narrative passages. I would have preferred it if that back story had been more subtly integrated, perhaps revealed through dialogue or detail.

The other issue I had was that, for a relationship spanning almost twenty years, my first impression was that the main characters didn't seem too invested in each other. At one point, for example, Robin reflects: "Ellie was extremely attractive and offered more than enough to satisfy her libido." Surely after two decades of a relationship, Robin would think more of her partner than as a mere salve for her sexual appetite - which is, it has to be said, in Robin's case voracious. However, the more I read of this couple, the more I felt I got to know them, and understood something of the tensions and desires which motivated their actions.

Jen Silver introduces an array of colourful characters - some gay, some straight - and then sets them off on a series of romantic trajectories, often resulting in messy head long crashes, angst and trauma. There are so many different personal histories going on here, and all of them played out against the backdrop of a genuine historical mystery: who lies buried beneath Ellie's farm? And how will the archaeological dig, supervised by her former lover Kathryn, affect her life, her relationship with her family home and her own feelings about the past?

It was also great to read about a group of women who don't really grow old with too much grace. Ellie is in her fifties, and stressed about aging, having just survived a mid life crisis. However, she is definitely a woman who knows her own mind, who enjoys sex and has, it turns out, played the field a bit herself. In fact, the same can be said for her lover of old, Kathryn, and even for Robin who might behave like a hormonal adolescent, but has turned forty. OK, at times the characters in Starting Out come across as somewhat juvenile with their inability to make steady commitments or settle down. But on the other hand there was a very encouraging subtext to this story: life sure don't stop at fifty.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I really enjoyed this book, and despite the caveats previously mentioned it's a read that'll warm the cockles of your heart. It's funny, romantic, beautifully written, and the story stays with you long after you've finished it.


Club Storyville
Club Storyville
Price: £4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A must read!, 18 Jun. 2015
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This review is from: Club Storyville (Kindle Edition)
I recently came to the conclusion that we must be living through a golden age of lesbian literature, and it's books like Riley LaShea's Club Storyville that convince me this is the case. It's a novel which tackles issues of sexuality and race head on, and which claims the reader's attention from beginning to end. Above all, it's a beautifully exercised and compassionate narration of the sacrifices people are prepared to make in order to live and love freely.
I knew I was in for the long haul from the opening pages. There is something about Riley LaShea's style of writing which is both compelling and absorbing. I felt immediately drawn into 1940s America, and in particular to a south traumatised by the effects of the war, divided along racial lines by Jim Crow legislation, a society desperate to maintain appearances while tensions brew beneath its surface. Above all, I absolutely loved the way LaShea skilfully meshes her tale of forbidden love between two young women into this complex, historical background.
Club Storyville is quite simply a wonderful novel which works on so many levels - as a tale of self-discovery, as a skilfully-realised piece of historical fiction, and as a romantic love story. It's a book which forces you to think about just how much people were prepared to risk in order to be with the person they love. In that respect, I'd say it's a very important book, and I highly recommend it.


Sirensbane (Dragon Killer Trilogy Book 3)
Sirensbane (Dragon Killer Trilogy Book 3)
Price: £2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Unexpected twists, uncompromising heroics and Bond style villainry, 28 April 2015
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Unexpected twists, uncompromising heroics and Bond style villainry – the third of Rob May’s ‘Kal Moonheart’ series delivers on all counts.

This time, Kal finds herself on the high seas, accompanied by smuggler friend – and eventual lover – Lula Pearl. Lula’s fellow islanders have been transformed into zombies, apparently as the result of a dark magic or curse. But Kal soon discovers that all is not what it seems when she encounters the sinister ‘Magician’, and begins to unravel his evil plans.

What I love about these books is the way they take fantasy fiction and do something completely new with the genre. Where ‘Roll the Bones’ blended fantasy with political thriller, Sirensbane is packed with adventure, swashbuckling antics, and even a hint of sci-fi. There’s consistency in the way that this story links with the previous ones, ensuring that the reader feels they recognise Kal’s world immediately. At the same time, Sirensbane is packed with new characters and, through the use of flashbacks we learn more about both Kal and Lula’s past which sheds light on the two women and the reasons for their – sometimes – selfish behaviour.

I would strongly recommend Sirensbane to anyone who enjoys well-crafted fantasy or simply stories with a strong lead female role. Can’t wait for the next book in the series!


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