Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Case of Robert Quarry by Andrew Garve

Review  by Maryom

Detective Chief Superintendent Burns is looking forward to his retirement. He's only got a week left at work and he and his wife have plans to leave immediately on a caravanning trip to the south of France - something they've been looking forward to for a long time. Then, at the last minute he's pulled into investigating the death of a local industrialist, Robert Quarry. Suspicion falls at first on the militant trade unionist responsible for the strike at Quarry's factory, then the police discover that Quarry had rigged himself an alibi for the time of the murder.


First published in 1972 The case of Robert Quarry has been 're-released' by Bello - an imprint of Pan Macmillan which specialises in rediscovering older books and re releasing them digitally or as 'print on demand' hard copies.

The Case of Robert Quarry is an extremely enjoyable whodunnit from the days before DNA analysis and psychological profiling - almost from another world to today's thrillers. Being able to check the DNA at the crime scene would have made DCS Burns' job an awful lot easier! The plot hinges more on motive versus alibi much in the way of an Agatha Christie mystery. The story follows the investigation team as enquiries lead them first one way, then another - and, although giving clues to who the villain may have been, keeps the reader guessing till near the end.

Maryom's reviews - 4 stars
Publisher - Bello 
Genre - Adults Fiction, crime

Buy The Case of Robert Quarry (Bello) from Amazon

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Tabitha Posey was Ever so Nosey by Julie Fulton

Illustrated by Jona Jung

Review by The Mole

Tabitha was a nosey child, always asking questions and giving no-one any peace. A trip to the zoo however may change that a little bit but who knows?

Told in captivating rhyme the tale bounces along in fast action keeping the reader engaged with humour throughout. The illustrations are very colourful, full of detail and beautifully cartoon in style.

This one is bound to be a hit with the early readers, both girls and boys. Let's not discount the read and share value though as this will delight the reader each time it's read as much as the first.

This is bound to be a hit!

Publisher - Maverick Books 
Genre - Children's Early Reader, Picture book

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Born Weird by Andrew Kaufman

review by Maryom

When they were born Annie Weird gave each of her grandchildren what she believed to be a blessing; to always be safe, have hope, never be lost, to forgive everything, to be strong. Now Annie has come to believe that these blessings were nearer to curses and wishes to gather all of her grandchildren to her bedside so that at the moment of her death - the date and time of which she's exactly predicted  - the 'blessings' can be lifted. So favourite grand-daughter Angie is set the task of assembling them all. Achieving this is harder than it sounds - the Weird family have gone their separate ways and not seen each other in years but after a brief demonstration of Annie's powers, Angie is convinced that the seemingly impossible must be undertaken.

Born Weird is a rather difficult book to define - it's a light-hearted read looking at a serious subject; a quirky story of family life that explores the concept of too much protection being a bad thing but with a 'fairy-tale-gone-wrong' feel to it. The blessings bestowed on the Weirds by a well-meaning grandmother have turned over the years into curses - "blursings" is the word they coin for it.  Being sheltered from the knocks and blows of life has stopped the Weirds fully engaging with it and finding their 'happy ever after'.
Is it enough to say that I really, really enjoyed this book? It had oddly been sitting on the TBR pile for some time but once I picked it up I didn't want to put it down - or for it to end.

I can't think of another book to liken this to but if I were comparing it to a film I'd suggest two of my favourites - Juno or (500) Days of Summer.

The author's previous novel, The Tiny Wife, is a book that I've had on my radar as a 'must read' for some while - now I really mean to track it down.

Maryom's review -  5 stars
Publisher - The Friday Project
Genre - Adult fiction


Buy Born Weird from Amazon

Monday, 28 January 2013

One For Sorrow by M E Mayer

Review by The Mole

It's 535 AD in Constantinople and John, a slave and ex soldier, has risen in the ranks to become Justinian's, Byzantium's Emperor, right hand man. When John finds his friend, The Keeper Of The Plate, murdered in an alley he is given leave to find the killer. Intrigue builds when the Emperor and his wife, Theodora, rescind that permission... but will John risk life and limb to continue his investigation?

I found this book slow to start and maybe even a little naive at first - although that probably doesn't make any sense except to me - but after the first couple of scene setting chapters the story takes off.

You are taken to early Christian Byzantium with John, who encounters the poorest of the poor and the richest of society and treats them all with great respect - well almost all. I really felt that I learned a fair amount of how society was probably structured and how they interacted at that time but most of all I really enjoyed this book.

Did I guess who had done it? Well, no. To say the plot twists and turns is not really true but the profile of the crimes - did I not say that the body count doesn't stay at one? - keeps altering and so therefore so do(es) the likely killer(s) in the readers mind.

A thought provoking historical crime story that will keep you reading - and enjoying.

Publisher - Head Of Zeus
Genre - Historical crime fiction

Buy One for Sorrow: 1 (Death in Byzantium) from Amazon

Friday, 25 January 2013

The Hunters by Chris Kuzneski

review by Maryom

Fearing the advance of German troops in WW1, the Romanian government organised the removal of the country's treasures - art, jewellery and lots of gold. Shipped to Russia it somehow got lost during the turbulent years of war and revolution. Now a team is being put together to try and track it down...

The Hunters is the first of a new series from Chris Kuzneski - and it has a little bit of feel of the TV pilot programme about it. A crack team has been assembled of three men and two women, all experts in their fields - from leading military operations, stealing to order, knowing all there is to about computers or guns to an in-depth knowledge of languages and history. They're still at the stage of getting to know each other - trying to prove their worth, a combination of bonding and jostling for position in the team - and this takes up rather a lot of the story-line.
The opening chapters really had me gripped but then I felt things sagged a little before coming to an all-action climax. It wasn't quite my sort of action thriller. There was far too much detail on guns and armaments - I know this sort of detail probably thrills a lot of readers but for me a gun is a gun. I'd have liked it balanced in the team's research methods which mostly seemed to be take a lucky guess.

Taken all round, an interesting start to a series that I hope will improve as it goes along.

Maryom's review - 3.5 stars
Publisher -
Headline Publishing
Genre - Adult Action Adventure

Buy The Hunters by Chris Kuzneski from Amazon

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Trucilla's Wedding Cake by Corinne V Davies

Illustrated by El Ashfield

Review by The Mole

Trucilla is not a nice person and her brother and sisters are well aware of this. She bullies everyone and after the unexpected deaths of both parents in mysterious circumstances she decides she will steal her sister's boyfriend and get married. But for once will her siblings let her get away with it? And if she doesn't get away with it then will they get away with it? The whole town hopes so.

The story is told entirely in rhyme and although split into chapters the verse continues as one long tale. The story is funny throughout and the book is illustrated with many detailed and entertaining pictures in striking colours. Great fun to read to youngsters and share the pictures with, but early readers will enjoy it for themselves.

After the tale there is an epilogue which consists of a TV style interview with the siblings and the vicar involved in the story. Once again, a funny tale to be shared with a couple of voices perhaps. And finally with confessions from the author and ending with the "Forgiveness Song".

This book is also available in Audio Book format (CD or MP3 download) that is read by Pab Roberts and has additional content in the form of the vicar recording the "Forgiveness Song" - it sounds like it was great fun to make but the epilogue and confessions are not included in the audio version.

All in all it's another great piece of entertainment from this slightly zany pairing.

Publisher - Ral Publications
Genre - Children's 7+

Buy Trucilla's Wedding Cake (Book) from Amazon
Buy Trucilla's Wedding Cake - Story and Music (Audio CD) from Amazon

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Stendhal: Roman Tales translated by Susan Ashe

Review by The Mole

Marie-Henri Beyle was a prolific writer and, reading the introduction, he wrote under many pen names, one of which was Stendhal. His better known works include  Le Rouge et le Noir (The Red and the Black, 1830) and La Chartreuse de Parme (The Charterhouse of Parma, 1839). In this book the translator, Susan Ashe, takes three of his lesser known tales, The Abbess of Castro, Vittoria Accoramboni and The Cenci, and translates them for modern day readers while "whilst staying true to Stendhal’s style and brilliance." The tales purport to be true but historians feel that they deviate a great deal from documented accounts.

The introduction is something than made me think more about 'translations' than I would normally. I have often wondered how it's possible to translate poetry in particular as the nuances of the original language never repeat in the next one so much has to be lost. Even Shakespearean English loses something to modern day reader unless they are instructed in the meanings of some of the original language. In this we are told "Susan Ashe's translation, designed for the contemporary reader, concentrates on the narrative drive and drama of each story". Clearly any book, when translated cannot be translated literally but when is it a translation and when is it a retelling? The 11 page introduction is a bit of an insight in itself into both Stendahl and the art of translation.

The Abbess of Castro is the longest of the 3 tales and tells the story of young love that is not approved of by family. It also gives an insight into the politics of the time, brigands, attitudes and life in general. While reading I felt the writing style to be very Dickensian and the story moved swiftly. I found it difficult to read at first but that was probably me - it wasn't what I wanted at the time, but when I went back and started again I found it most engaging and I read it with a thirst for more. This, like the other two stories, does not end happily but still most enjoyable - at the right time.

Vittoria Accoramboni is once again a story of love... or is it lust?... that leads to murders. Once again, retaining the Dickensian feel but a tale that is very much shorter but none the less compelling or enjoyable for it.

The Cenci is a story of abuse, murder and injustice. Once again giving insights into the attitudes of the time to such issues and the value of life. Yet again an enjoyable tale.

The book ends with a list on notes, essays and glossaries to help to give context to the stories and the history surrounding these tales. The book also contains the Preface to The Cenci by Percy Bysshe Shelley and an essay by Charles Dickens on the Cenci Portrait.

All in all a very enjoyable read if the mood is right. If you don't manage to get started then put it to one side and return when your mood may be more agreeable to murder, mayhem and treachery.

Publisher - The Friday Project
Genre - Adult Historical Fiction

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Bringing Down the Giants – Cynan Jones talks about taking on Peredur.

One of the things I love about book-blogging is discovering books and authors that may not have come to my attention through my local bookstore or library. Oddly, though, my attention was drawn to Seren Books' series of re-worked tales from the Mabinogion by a clothing website. The series is now drawing to a close with Cynan Jones, author of Everything I Found on the Beach , being asked to adapt the tale of Peredur to a modern setting. The result is Bird Blood Snow and we are lucky enough today to have Cynan explain how he went about it.

I was the last of ten authors to be invited to write one of Seren’s ‘New Stories from the Mabinogion’: I got Peredur. The tale everyone else had left.

When I read it I thought: Shit. I came away with one image – the bird and the blood in the snow; and a sense that the hero of the tale was a delinquent. There were reasons why every other writer had avoided the story.

However, such was the totality of my reaction, that I had no doubt how to approach it.

Writing Bird, Blood, Snow was a “bicycle kick”. There was the surety of what I wanted to achieve and the necessity to achieve it immediately.

So I stopped thinking and just went for it.


I brought in different voices, perspectives, techniques. Tried a sense of performance, of pantomime. Half-did things. Wrote incorrectly. Caused confusion. Added pictures. Mind maps. Crossings out. I threw it all in.

There was a thrill to working like this and a necessary pace. Like a bicycle kick, I figured if I missed the target, what the hell: it would be a worthy effort, and entertaining. If I hit the net, all the better. The only issue was if I missed completely and landed on my arse.

I wasn’t going to know until I handed in the manuscript. But Penny Thomas, the series editor, had been clear: I had a totally free creative remit.

Luckily, she liked it.

When were you awarded the commission to write the book?

I was awarded the commission at the start of 2012. The book was due for October ’13 and would have been the final book in the series. Then Seren asked whether we could bring things forward a year. That was March ’12. They needed the manuscript by June. I said yes.

If I’d had longer I might have taken a different approach. I might have looked at telling the story of Peredur’s mother and father, bringing it to the point where Peredur is taken from things – the point the original tale starts. It would have been more like my other work. More considered, scant, controlled.

Was there a lot of research involved in writing the book?

I usually research heavily. It’s part of the process of limbering up to write. Given the shift of deadline, research went out of the window this time. I think that fed into the book. I’m fully aware the psychiatric treatments I describe are outdated. The mishmash of voices is deliberate. I use the anachronisms with intent.

The key work, other than the writing, was consuming the various novels and other texts I wanted to bring into the story in order to create echoes.

I wanted readers to feel that they recognised the piece, to reflect the fact that the motifs, occasions, references in the original would have been understood by the audience. I added echoes of other books. Sometimes verbatim, other times parodied or hinted. I bent Welsh nursery rhymes into the story.

What were your chief aims when deciding on the approach you took to the book?

I wanted to repeat the sense I had from the original that it was written down – and therefore ‘solidified’ – before it was ready. That it hadn’t matured properly, (much like Peredur himself), before it was sent out into the world.

I wanted to bring in the fact the original was an oral tale and would have been performed. Performance would have brought emphasis and exaggeration and spontaneity to the otherwise dry language. I had to get that back in somehow.

I wanted there to be a degree of celebration. The original tale is violent and nasty, and I couldn’t shy out of that. But there had to be something of the romp to it! It had to be visceral and colourful and compelling, but it had to be fun.

In the end, though, a book can’t rely on party tricks. It has to work as a coherent whole.

I hope it does for you. 

It most certainly did for me! Many thanks for letting us in on the working process. 

Maryom's reviews of the Seren tales from the Mabinogion can be found here

More information on Seren’s ‘New Stories from the Mabinogion’ can be found here and if you are not familiar with the Mabinogion tales then brief information on the Mabinogion can be found here and more specifically the Peredur story here

Cynan Jones' website can be found at www.cynanjones.net and you can follow him on Twitter as @cynan1975

Monday, 21 January 2013

World War One History in an Hour by Rupert Colley

Review by The Mole

We normally start a review with a synopsis but I think most people are aware of this event in history and it's outcome, but how much do we know about how it started and who the main participants were? I set out reading this with an admission that my knowledge of these events was pretty poor so wanted to see how much I could find out 'in an hour'.

I am a slow reader so it did take me more than an hour but not a great deal more. But how much is actually covered? There is very little time for waffle in this account so be prepared for facts to come at you like the proverbial machine gun fire. The narration is well structured to keep all events moving along chronologically - something that is not easy when war was raging on so many fronts at the same time - and you arrive at the end dizzying over the amount that has been presented to you in such a short time. Perhaps I should have read it as several smaller sessions, but my memory is poor and I will have to go back and reread to try to absorb more of it.

"Thoroughly enjoyable" somehow doesn't do it credit. Extremely well done and extremely informative.

Publisher - Harper Press
Genre - Non-Fiction, War, History

Buy World War One: History in an Hour from Amazon

Friday, 18 January 2013

The Perfect Flower Girl by Taghred Chandab & Binny Talib

Review by The Mole

Amani is to be a flower girl with her sister at her Aunt Sarah's Lebanese Muslim wedding. The excitement is immense and she is practising  her role at every opportunity. There is so much to do and, to Amani, so little time and it has to be perfect.

The underlying colour of this lovely picture book is pink. Very pink. It is, quite clearly, one for young girls.The numerous pictures on each page are simple and sweet and the complementing text is in easily accessible language that makes it an easy reader, add to all that the beautiful sparkly stars on the cover and it's a very attractive book. Most young girls want to attend a wedding and have a part to play in it and while in the UK this is frequently the role of bridesmaid, this book explains that young girls have a similar role in Muslim weddings and that the girls involved get just as excited as any bridesmaid.

Does it all work out well for Amani? Well, have a read for yourself.

Publisher - Allen and Unwin
Genre - Children's Picture book

Buy The Perfect Flower Girl from Amazon

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Beyond by Graham McNamee

review by Maryom

Jane has always had a shadowy figure lurking at the back of her mind, encouraging her to do stupid things that have brought her close to death several times. Although dismissed by her parents and doctors as accidents, Jane knows that her 'shadow' is controlling her actions and forcing her to do these things. Now in her teens, Jane has decided that enough is enough; that she will end up dead if she can't free herself from the ghostly presence. With her friend, Lexi, she tries to find out who or what may be haunting her mind but they end up on the trail of a far more substantial serial killer -  and in danger of a very different kind.

Beyond is an excellent gripping supernatural thriller, playing on our fears of what may lie in wait after death, with the added 'bonus' of a real-life killer thrown in as well.  It's wonderfully atmospheric - conjuring up both the shadowy half-world of Jane's mind and the real Canadian Raincoast setting of dark forest cloaked in almost perpetual rain where events are played out.  I complain that a lot of ghost or horror stories miss their mark for me - possibly by trying too hard - but this one hit it.
Although aimed at the teen/YA age group, I'm sure this will appeal to older readers who like a scary read with less gore than some adult horror.

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Hodder Children's Books
Genre -
Teen/YA, horror, supernatural, thriller
 

Buy Beyond from Amazon


Other reviews; The Overflowing Library

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Armageddon: The Musical by Robert Rankin

Review by The Mole

The Earth is a live TV program on the planet Phnaarg but Earth is post apocalyptic and is, itself, focussed just on TV programs. But the problem is that the ratings on Phnaarg are dropping and while there is a 'non intervention' policy it appears there has been intervention in the past and and the station directors are persuaded to do it again. Enter Rex Mundi, Elvis Presley and the Time Sprout! The outcome might have been very different if Christeen hadn't invited herself along to the party - but of course her brother had to come along too!

This is not a new book - sorry but sometimes you have to take the opportunity when it arises. I became a Rankin fan in 2005 after Waterstones said 'if you like Tom Holt then you will like Robert Rankin' and I did and do. This book was originally published in 1991 so I have come to the stories late and there is a lot of catching up to do.

The story dashes from time zone to time zone, planet to planet and character to character with a dizzying speed that seems to never pause. The whole story is one big humorous event so if you want a serious Sci-Fi that has true integrity then look away now.

Brilliant and well worth taking time out for a change of style.

Publisher - Corgi Books
Genre - Adult, Sci-Fi, Comedy

 Buy Armageddon: The Musical from Amazon

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Food of Ghosts by Marianne Wheelaghan

review by Maryom

Detective Sergeant Louisa Townsend has returned to her native island of Tarawa in the Pacific to help implement modern hi-tech policing methods but coincidence leads her into heading a murder investigation.
Although she's well-versed in the manners and procedures of Edinburgh police, Louisa finds herself adrift and feeling powerless in this totally different world.  The locals - both native islanders and the substantial ex-pat community - seem bent on obstructing her, particularly by adhering to their belief that, because of the mutilation of the body, the victim must have been killed by ghosts.

If you're reaching saturation point with the doom and gloom of Nordic Noir, this lighter, brighter crime novel may be what you're looking for - certainly the Pacific island setting is about as different as could be imagined.

Food of Ghosts, despite the gruesome mutilation of the corpse, is a lighter sort of whodunnit - much like Midsommer Murders or Death in Paradise, proving that a beautiful setting yet again hides the same murder motives and shaky alibis as the grimmest inner city. As Louisa is returning to a place she only remembers from her childhood, the reader discovers it and its inhabitants along with her. There's a great supporting cast of her, often unwelcome, relatives - all of whom will surely be back in Louisa's further adventures.

Although I didn't guess the culprit, I should have done - the hints and pointers were there at the beginning but in a way so obvious that I, like Louisa, ignored them.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - 
Pilrig Press
Genre - crime
Buy Food of Ghosts from Amazon

Monday, 14 January 2013

Tich Vampire Hunter by Pete Barrett

Review by The Mole

It's another boring day for Tich and his gang so they go off to visit the graveyard. There they find a mausoleum door slightly ajar so decide to return at midnight to investigate further.

The investigation ends up with the local butcher, a Mr Dracula, being awoken from the dead to resume his vampiric activities. Soon the whole school, apart from Tich and his gang, are vampires and it's up to them, as they started this, to end it. Finally we want to know if Tich ends up with the girl of his dreams?

The cover presents this story as "wonderfully weird and wacky" and certainly that is a very good summary. The writing style, vocabulary and presentation suits it's target readership very well and the story is one of those extraordinary fantasies that children embark upon inside their heads and so will appeal. The idea of pushing wooden stakes through the hearts of vampires sounds gruesome but Barrett has done it in a way that is not at all. And the final twist? There is also plenty of comic moments to entertain - something that seems to keep all readers reading, regardless of age.

Well, it's just so well done as to make the reader stop and smile and enjoy the book that little bit more.

Publisher - Playbackbooks
Genre - Children's fantasy fiction 7+

Buy Tich Vampire Hunter by Pete Barrett from Amazon

Friday, 11 January 2013

Rachel Joyce - author event

We started this year's round of literary events at an evening with Rachel Joyce held in our (almost) local Waterstones as part of the promotional tour for the launch of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry in paperback. This is the second time we've seen her as she appeared along with ML Stedman at last year's Lowdham Festival

A lot has happened since then for Harold Fry - being one of Transworld's biggest sellers of 2012, an audio-book version produced read by Jim Broadbent, selected for the Man Booker longlist, winner of the Specsavers National Book Awards 'New Writer of the Year' 2012 and now chosen for Richard and Judy Spring 2013 Bookclub .... all of which has all led to an unexpectedly busy promotional year for the author.
 There's also the exciting prospect of a film sometime in the future - rights have been sold to a British company and, if produced, will be shot in Britain and feature British actors of appropriate age.

As a 'solo' performance this event was quite different to the last, with different topics covered. Things started with a chat-style interview, followed by a reading from the beginning of Harold Fry's journey. There was of course time for questions from the audience and their response showed that Harold Fry is a book - and character - loved equally by men and women. A brief mention was made of Joyce's upcoming next novel, Perfect, to be published  later this year and the evening concluded with a book-signing.



Thursday, 10 January 2013

...and the Blood Flowed Green by Alan Nolan

Review by The Mole

Marion ‘Mick’ Mulligan is a sci-fi writer but you are unlikely to have heard of him as he didn't sell many of his books. He was then abducted by aliens. Normal abductees are returned to where taken from but not Mick, he is dumped on a lawless planet where he makes friends with Crk-Tish-Crrrkkk and together with Runt, his robot friend, they try to get back to their home planets. Passing through many unlikely situations and several different planets they start their journey.
The whole story is told with a great deal of humour!

When I was a child I read a lot of comics: War comics; Superhero comics; Dandy, Beano, Victor, Valiant and all those. When I was a young man I saw an Army Territorial Reserve soldier reading a war comic, like those of my youth, which he assured me was 'a training manual'. So comics are gone to be replaced by the Graphic Novel to try to give them more acceptability - it's a shame it was felt that it was needed.

This was my first Graphic Novel and I haven't read a comic in many years now. The layout seems less random than when I was a kid and the inclusion of those 'information' pages on things connected with the story but not part of - like the adverts of old - was a format change. All in all I was thoroughly impressed with where the concept has gone to.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book with its humour and totally unrealistic but fantastical drawings and I'm sure kids will enjoy this immensely. I know that as a child I read comics extensively - never getting enough - and anything that gets kids reading has to be a good thing but not only reading - escaping - escapism is a great stress breaker and kids have always had stress.

I do remember comics going missing for a while as dad read them - and why not? It should still apply today and I'm sure that dads everywhere would enjoy this one.

Publisher - O'Brien Press
Genre - Humour, Graphic Novel

Buy And the Blood Flowed Green (Murder Can be Fatal) from Amazon

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

50 Sheds of Grey by CT Grey

Review by The Mole

"A Parody: Erotica for the not-too-modern male"

Some of this story has been 'tweeted' on Twitter and what I saw whetted my appetite. The tweets made it look like it was a whole collection of short sketches that reveal a love of sheds above all things. Well almost all things. However there is an underlying story that bonds them all together but altogether it's a very amusing book that I just HAD to have.

Clever use of language sets out to make the original "50 Shades" look just a tad silly. Well done Mr Grey - I loved it and so will many more people I'm sure.

Humorous light reading with lots of illustrations around a short story.

Publisher - Boxtree
Genre - Adult Humour

Buy Fifty Sheds of Grey: A Parody: Erotica for the not-too-modern male from Amazon

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Stained Glass by Catherine Czerkawska

 review by Maryom

Stained Glass is yet another of the numerous free downloads I found over Christmas. This time something slightly different - a collection of three short supernatural stories, 22 pages in total;
- Stained Glass - in which a house-renovator sees more than he'd expected through the reclaimed window he installs.
- The Penny Execution - an unusual 'peep-show' style antique that's rather more gruesome than its purchaser anticipated.
- The Sleigh - set in Poland, this story is made all the more chilling by being inspired by the author's family history.

I'm not normally a fan of supernatural/ghost stories. I don't scare easily and too many set out merely to shock the reader and then fall completely flat if they don't! These three short stories are subtler than that - think of the stories in Mrs Gaskell's Curious, If True, collection. They all managed to send shivers up my spine - even though I guessed the 'twist' in Stained Glass as I've read another story with a similar premise though completely different setting and feel (Bob Shaw's Light of Other Days)

My only complaint would be that I'd have liked more!

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher -
Wordarts
Genre - Short stories, supernatural/ghost stories, adult

Monday, 7 January 2013

Don't Judge Me by Linda Strachan

Review by The Mole

A group of teenagers out on the street of an evening and there is a fire in a flat. It's arson and someone is critically ill. Did one of the teenagers do it and if so which? There is no shortage of motives but surely there is only 1 person responsible?

Strachan has done it again - a story that brings real teenagers to the page, caught in situations that they really find themselves, showing decision making, reasoning and judgements that they actually make.

As I read this I witnessed the teenagers judging their peers and found myself party to those judgements. The thing was the only evidence we saw was even less than circumstantial. And when we finally learn what really happened - and everything falls into place - we suddenly understand the thinking of the teenagers and that our judgements were unfair.

Another excellent story of contemporary issues affecting the young adults of today.

Publisher - Strident
Genre - YA, crime fiction

Buy Don't Judge Me from Amazon

Friday, 4 January 2013

God Save The Queen by Kate Locke

Review by The Mole

When Alexandra Vardan, a half blood vampire, finds her sister is missing, she risks life and limb by entering goblin territory to find her. Little does she know that the events that follow will change the course of her life - and the lives of those around her. A story of vampires, werewolves, goblins, humans and half bloods. Xandra is in the Royal Guard assigned to protect the sovereign, Queen Victoria, as well as the nobility.

The author's note at the start tries to explain how the history of the world of Xandra's varies from the world we know and to put into context where Xandra fits into this society but I have to admit to still not knowing what to expect from this story. I struggled, for quite a bit of the book, to remember that Xandra was, in fact, female - a fact that is very important and not just 'choice' by the author. I'm not really sure why though... there are frequent dress references etc but she just feels very... masculine.

With a twist at the end. Not really, from about half way through I could see the outcome - OK the detail was not quite there but the overall idea was what I guessed. And it didn't matter one iota! It was the journey that was hugely entertaining and a journey well worth the taking. Yes, there's romance. Yes, there's plain lust. Yes there's violence of all sorts - but it doesn't detract from the overall enjoyment of a paranormal adventure.

I am just wondering where book 2 in the trilogy will take us as it feels like the end of the journey already.

Publisher - Orbit Books
Genre - YA Paranormal Adventure

Buy God Save the Queen: Book One of the Immortal Empire from Amazon

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Pure by Julianna Baggott

review by Maryom

"Pressia Belze has lived outside of the Dome ever since the detonations. Struggling for survival she dreams of life inside the safety of the Dome with the 'Pure'. Partridge, himself a Pure, knows that life inside the Dome, under the strict control of the leaders' regime, isn't as perfect as others think. Bound by a history that neither can clearly remember, Pressia and Partridge are destined to forge a new world."


The Detonations changed the world for ever and divided it into two groups - the fortunate Pures who were lucky enough to have secured themselves a place in the protected environment of the Dome - and the Wretches who were caught outside and altered by the blasts - and with this premise, Julianna Baggott creates one of the most amazing post-apocalyptic worlds I've encountered, either in book or film. The background of two differing groups of nuclear-war survivors sets the stage for a totally compelling plot. It's told in the third person but from the point of view of teenagers who are unaware of many of the duplicities of the world they live in - so the reader is introduced first to their comparatively innocent view of the world and discovers the even darker background to events as they do.

From the age of the main characters Pure comes under the YA label, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to sci-fi/dystopian fans of all ages. the only draw-back comes from being first of a trilogy. Many questions are answered by the end of the book but not all and obviously events are not brought to a conclusion. Fortunately, the second part of the trilogy comes out next month (February 2013) so there's not too long to wait.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher -
Headline Publishing
Genre - YA Sci-Fi/Dystopian

Buy Pure (Pure Trilogy) from Amazon

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Playing With Fire by Peter Robinson

Review by The Mole

Two narrow boats catch fire and the police are left with trying to determine if it's arson or accident. And if it's arson which of the two victims was the intended. And who are the victims anyway. It starts to look more like arson when a second fire destroys a caravan with a third victim inside. Banks and his team have their work cut out.

An admission before I start off... This is the first DCI Banks I have read and I have watched NONE of the TV dramatisations either. There, got that off my chest.

These books have a very popular following and I witnessed this at a Waterstones Nottingham event. It was well attended and the questions that people asked showed that they knew the characters well and considered them personal friends. Well having read my first one I can really understand why. The characters have their foibles and while you may not like everything about any of them then they also have their redeeming features. I am not a 'whodunnit' reader but I have to admit to having 'twigged' this one early on but Robinson had said that he didn't know who the culprit was until the end, so I am left wondering a bit how I got it so early.

If you haven't read any then I recommend crime readers give a DCI Banks novel a go.

Publisher - Pan Books
Genre - Adult Crime Fiction

Buy Playing with Fire from Amazon

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Picks of 2012 - The Mole

My selection of from 2012 is driven from the books that have made an impression with me and I remember. Rather more in my selection than in Maryom's - perhaps I'm just greedy?


Historical Novels
Empire Of The Moghul : The Tainted Throne by Alex Rutherford
This is the first historical novel I have read and it left me wondering why I hadn't tried them earlier. Definitely I will be reading more in 2013 - particularly if they are as good as this one was.


Fantasy
Shadow Blizzard by Alexey Pehov
Shadow Prowler by Alexey Pehov

This year saw me reading the second and third books in the Chronicles of Sala trilogy and, unusually, found each book better than the last - a series well worth a read.


Liberator's Ruin by P J Johns 
This book came as a bit of a surprise but Maryom described it as "Star Wars as it should have been written". Bear that in mind and you will see that justice is a relative thing.




 

Classics/Nostalgia/Sci-Fi
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
This is a book that disappeared from my own collection many years ago and when given the opportunity I jumped at it. It ages remarkably well.




Children's
Red, White and Black by Matt Cartney
Danny Lansing is a youngster who has caught my imagination and I'm sure he will catch many more. This is his second adventure and it's even better than his first.

Wolfie by Emma Barnes
A story to delight children from 1-101

Artemis Fowl and the Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer
The final adventure for Artemis Fowl - a truly memorable last adventure it is too.

Guinea Pigs Online by Jennifer Gray and Amanda Swift 
This is about memorable and enjoyable books and this one certainly is both.

Edwin Spencer: Shadow Magic by J D Irwin
 Edwin is a true reluctant hero - But he loves IT!









YA
Ramshackle by Elizabeth Reeder
Surprisingly, of all the YA I have read this year this is the one that truly stands out. Plenty of award nominations but not enough awards - it deserves far more




 
Thriller/Crime
Uncommon Enemy by Alan Judd
A story of a spy betrayed.



Midwinter Sacrifice by Mons Kallentoft
My first Nordic Noir - and I plan on more.





The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
A modern Sherlock Holmes - and thoroughly enjoyed.









Humour
Everything's Fine by Socrates Adams
I was warned it was a little eccentric and it was - but it was also great fun and you may never see your Sat Nav in the same light.


The Fart by Cynan Jones
During the year of the short story - here is a VERY short story that I found very amusing!



Non-fiction
Bridge of Spies by Giles Whittell 
An era that I knew less of than I thought and told with a cynicism that will amuse
 
Red Bull Racing F1 Car 2010 (RB6) Owner's Workshop Manual 
OK, it's not REALLY aimed at owners but it was a Christmas present and it was hugely informative.


How To Win Friends and Influence People
Something we all aspire to.









Short Stories
Unthology No. 3 edited by Stokes Ashley and Robin Jones 

And 2012 was the year of the short stories - well it would have been but that is actually explained in the forward to this collection that warmed me more to short stories that I have ever been. Perhaps all anthologies should be like this?