Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Adaptation by Malinda Lo

 review by Maryom

"Flocks of birds are hurling themselves at aeroplanes across America. Thousands of people die. Millions are stranded. Everyone knows the world will never be the same.

On Reese's long drive home, along a stretch of empty highway at night, a bird flies into their headlights. The car flips over. When they wake up in a military hospital, the doctor won't tell them what happened.

For Reese, though, this is just the start. She can't remember anything from the time between her accident and the day she woke up almost a month later. She only knows one thing: she's different now. Torn between longtime crush David and new girl Amber, the real question is: who can she trust?"

Adaptation is an unusual story in that it mixes sci-fi and conspiracy theories with teen romance and Reese's struggles to come to terms with her sexual orientation; so you could see it as a bit of something for everyone, or it could be that some readers are going to find bits of it more interesting than others. For me, it was very enjoyable. I liked the mix of teen relationship issues and government cover-ups, as Reese tries to work out her feelings for Amber and David, or goes out with long-term friend and conspiracy theorist Julian to search for evidence to back up his claims.
The pace seems a little uneven at times with the action scenes being fast and dramatic, and the relationship issues less so, but all in all it pulled me in and kept me reading.
My main gripe would be that, as so often, this isn't the whole story. Although the story finishes at a logical point, there's a sequel, Inheritance and also an ebook novella, Natural Selection, which tells Amber's side of the story.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Hodder Childrens
Genre - Thriller, Historical, teen

Buy Adaptation from Amazon

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Knightley & Son by Rohan Gavin

Review by The Mole

Darkus is a somewhat remarkable 13 year old boy. His father, a private investigator, is in a coma for some inexplicable reason and Darkus is waiting and hoping to see him wake from the coma. He has been studying his father's case notes and is sitting beside the bed discussing the cases to try to wake him. When he does finally waken then there is no-one there to witness it and he goes missing. And so the weirdness starts as, using his father's case notes, Darkus tries to stop the secret organisation called The Combination. The Combination has gained control of an ancient book containing a power that enables them to manipulate people, ordinary people who read a best selling book called The Combination, and have them commit crimes they would not normally contemplate.

Alan and Darkus Knightley - the father and son team - are two characters I just couldn't warm to. Alan has a personality that is flat and charmless yet arrogant and Darkus is no better for most of the book despite the naivety that he also shows - although towards the end this does improve. The real characters in this book are Uncle Bill - the head of a top secret police unit - and Tilly, Darkus's step sister.

Don't misunderstand though, I did enjoy the book and I'm sure the characters will develop in later books as the team investigate other crimes - hopefully still with Tilly's help and Uncle Bill's of course.

Publisher - Bloomsbury
Genre - Children's fiction

Buy Knightley and Son from Amazon

Monday, 21 April 2014

Stay Up With Me by Tom Barbash

Review by The Mole

"A deeply humane, piercingly funny, and already widely acclaimed new short story collection that features men and women we all know or might be.
The stories in Tom Barbash's evocative and often darkly funny collection explore the myriad ways we try to connect to one another and to the sometimes cruel world around us. The newly single mother in 'The Break' interferes with her son's love life over his Christmas vacation from college. The anxious young man in 'Balloon Night' persists in hosting his and his wife's annual watch-the-Macy's-Thanksgiving-Day-Parade-floats-be-inflated party, while trying to keep the myth of his marriage equally afloat. The young narrator in 'The Women' watches his widowed father become the toast of Manhattan's midlife dating scene, as he struggles to find his own footing.
The characters in Stay Up with Me find new truths when the old ones have given out or shifted course. Barbash laces his narratives with sharp humour, psychological acuity, and pathos, creating deeply resonant and engaging stories that pierce the heart and linger in the imagination.

I generally prefer anthologies of short stories by different authors but this collection of stories really has a great harmony and style that works tremendously well. Summing the collection up is not easy which is why I have borrowed the publisher's synopsis. Overall its appeal comes from the continuity of style and the way that the approach to the theme differs so much with each story, yet it manages to be one complete collection.

David Mitchell is credited as saying that his favourite "...was always the story I'd just finished." and I certainly found that my favourite was the last in the book - "The Women". Or perhaps it was just such a perfect story to finish on? Or was it "Somebody's Son" because I found myself pondering it long after I'd moved on? Although the mother we see in "The Break" is someone we all know even if not quite to the same extreme. Or was it...? Perhaps I don't end up with a favourite after all but this collection will certainly go onto my shelf as I'm sure there is more enjoyment to be got from it on a re-read.

A really great read and the stories are short enough for coffee time reads although whether you will concentrate on anything else after, I don't know.

Currently available in kindle and hardback but shortly to be available in paperback.

Publisher - Simon & Schuster
Genre - Adult Short Stories

Buy Stay Up With Me from Amazon

Friday, 18 April 2014

Fatal Act by Leigh Russell

Review by The Mole

After an argument a woman, an actress, storms out of the house of her boyfriend, a famous producer, and drives away in her Porsche only to die in a head-on collision with her boyfriend's van whose driver has disappeared. The question has to be asked as to why this has been referred as a murder investigation? A second actress dies and the common factor appears to be the producer. When the producer's son is murdered then there can only be one name in the frame, surely?

Returning for her sixth investigation, Geraldine Steel once again leads us through the routine encumbered by a boss who has decided who is guilty and wants no time wasted on pointless enquiries. At the same time her sergeant is constantly pushing her opinions and her 'sister', Celia, is trying to get her to maintain her social life and Nick, an inspector that shares her office, is trying to get her to go on a date. Chaos continues to surround Geraldine when DS Peterson - her sergeant from before her move to the met - phones to go out for a drink creating a temporary oasis of calm.

I really did like the way this incident with Peterson is mirrored in "Cold Sacrifice" which is the first DS Peterson mystery; it manages to add a degree of continuity to both stories. I have to say that early on I had figured a feature of the killer - I suspect we are supposed to - but the story is about finding out who and how Geraldine gets to the killer.

Geraldine is one of my favourite fictional detectives and this mystery does nothing to diminish her status. A great read with a twist at the end that I won't even hint at! (Check the murder count - ooops).

I really enjoyed this book and it is sure to please whodunnit readers and Steel fans wherever they may be. We were recently part of the blog tour to celebrate the publication of Fatal Act and Leigh talked about browser history

Publisher - No Exit Press
Genre - Adult Crime Thriller

Buy Fatal Act (A Geraldine Steel Mystery) from Amazon

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Shattered by Teri Terry

review by Maryom

Shattered is the last  instalment of Teri Terry's gripping dystopian trilogy set in a not too distant future, where the standard punishment for offending teenagers is to be given a new start with their minds wiped clean - Slated. This is what happened to Kyla, but for some reason some of her memories have leaked back, leaving her with broken, disjointed glimpses of her past. I don't want to say more for fear of plot spoilers - if you've read Slated and Fractured  you know what's happened so far, and if you haven't I'd just completely ruin them for you.
Now, with a new look and a new identity, Kyla is off to the Lake District trying to behave as anyone of her age would - and, in fact, must according to government regulations - staying in an approved girls' hostel and signing up for an apprenticeship scheme. She's also on a journey into her past - meeting her 'real' mother of whom she has no recollection - and discovering, as her memories return, that there are more surprises in her past than she'd ever imagined possible.
As the last in the trilogy, the plot is bound to head for a grand showdown between good and evil, exposing the bad guys and with everyone living happily ever after....isn't it? Well, some of those elements are there but maybe not in quite the way you'd expect. There are more twists and turns, more doubt about who's on the good side and who on the bad, and the tension doesn't let up until the very end. Kyla is still full of doubt about who to trust, reason pulls her one way, feelings another. I could see that the author had faced some hard choices about how Kyla's story should end and I'm glad she didn't go for the easy way out - even though I'm not sure all readers will agree with me.

Shattered, in fact the whole trilogy, is a fantastic thriller but also touches on some interesting ideas about punishment and rehabilitation, and how a person's character is formed - is it 'hard-wired' from birth or capable of being changed for good or bad through circumstances? - making it an excellent choice for readers looking for something entertaining but thought-provoking.

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Orchard Books

Genre - Teenage Dystopian Thriller

Buy Shattered (Slated Trilogy) from Amazon

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E Smith

review by Maryom

Despite living in the same apartment block, in the normal course of events Owen and Lucy would never have met. He lives in the basement with his newly-widowed father, the building's superintendent; she lives up on the 24th floor, with her rarely present jet-setting parents. But fate decides to take a hand in the form of a power cut - and when two people are stranded together in a lift, they can't help but say hello.With both of them left 'home alone', they decide to spend the rest of the blackout together and start out on the first steps to falling in love.
Having thrown them together, fate then decides to tear them apart - Lucy's parents insist she joins them in London, where she learns that they're to relocate from New York to Edinburgh; Owen meanwhile sets outs on a roadtrip across the US with his dad - echoing the one his parents took when they first met. They try to remain in touch through postcards and the odd e-mail but circumstances seem really set against them.

Despite starting with one of my most dreadful nightmares - being stuck in a lift - this is an absolutely delightful read. Yes, it's unashamedly romantic fiction, but without being gushy and sentimental, and although aimed at the teen market, I really enjoyed it.
It's not without it's darker, sadder side - Owen's mother has recently died and both he and his father are still trying to come to terms with their loss and grief. Both are in limbo - unable to come to terms with what's happened and move on with their lives - and so the road trip idea takes shape as a way to say 'goodbye' and look to the future. Their closeness is something that Lucy has never experienced - her parents have always been happy to leave her and her brothers in the care of nannies when younger or alone as they grew up - but in Europe she discovers a new family bond.
I loved the author's previous novel  This Is What Happy Looks Like and The Geography of You and Me is another irresistible romantic read.

Maryom's review -  4.5 stars
Publisher - Headline  
Genre - rom com, teen/YA 

 Buy The Geography Of You And Me from Amazon

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Betrayed by Jacqui Rose

Review by The Mole

Bunny Barker has dark secrets - secrets she won't share even with Del, the man she loves, and outside of Claudia, her protector and helper, she trusts no-one - not even Del.

In the criminal underworld Del is king but the Russians and Teddy, a corrupt police officer, want to dethrone him. He needs the trust and support of those he loves.

When I read this book it brought to mind Black Widow by Jessie Keane but only as far as genre - that's where the similarity ends.

The story starts feeling very disjointed in a few harrowing scenes of murder and child abuse - scenes that may anger the reader or horrify - but sadly these things do happen - but the author manages to stop early enough without giving the detail to titillate the perverted and cause the rest to put the book in the incinerator but the reader knows how those scenes will end. The story then jumps and becomes what the book is about. There is an element of farce involved... this is no story of well organised gangs controlling everything day-to-day - it's a story of taking each day as it comes without planning and without really thinking about tomorrow and what the consequences might be.

The farcical element really makes this book something very special with almost EVERY character at one point or another wanting to 'put the hit' on one or more of the other characters and no-one is exempt from it. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and might even describe Rose as the 'Janet Evanovich of the bad guy world'.

The reader does become involved and appalled, not only at the beginning but by other scenes too, and let's also include 'page turner' as it's well deserving of that one too - but overall it's a great fun read with bad guys bumping into each other all over the place.

Oh, there's boats, helicopters and bullet proof cars too!

Publisher - Avon Books
Genre - Adult Crime, Thriller

Buy BETRAYED from Amazon