Friday, 29 November 2013

The Street Finds Its Own Uses for Mutant Technologies by Ira Nayman

Review by The Mole

In this collection of news articles from alternate realities around  the multiverse we encounter not only more of the weird realities but even stranger people and politics.

Nayman once again reflects on people and events slightly outside of normal reality and injects humour into everything. His brand of humour - Pythonesque, Feldmanish, Milligan-like - his work has a wide appeal to those who would contemplate "what if the universe... ?". And it's very easy to see parallels back into our own universe and how silly people really are without anyone actually adding humour on their behalf.

I have to admit to being a fan of this brand of humour which we encountered constantly years ago but still has a big following today although it is far less prominent than it was.

Take a look and raise a smile today (Amazon has a 'look inside' option) and do yourself a favour.

Publisher - Aardvarks Eyes Press
Genre - Adult Humour, Sci Fi

Buy The Street Finds Its Own Uses for Mutant Technologies from Amazon

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Leigh Russell - Author Interview

Today we have an interview with crime writer Leigh Russell, author of the Gerald Steel stories Cut Short , Road Closed, Dead End, Death Bed, Stop Dead and now Cold Sacrifice a spin off featuring DI Paterson. Her books have quite a track record:-
Cut Short - CWA Dagger shortlist, #1 iTunes, #1 Women Sleuths
Road Closed - #1 Women Sleuths, Top 20 Kindle, Top Read Eurocrime, Top 50 iTunes
Dead End - #1 Women Sleuths, Top 20 Kindle, Top 20 WH Smith's, Top 10 Miami Examiner
Death Bed - #1 Women Sleuths, Top 20 WH Smith's
Stop Dead - #1 on Amazon Kindle
D.I Geraldine Steel is a Lovereading Great Female Sleuth


The Mole has read, and enjoyed all of these stories so far and had a few questions to ask.

Of all the possible genres you could choose to write in, you chose to write crime - and not comfortable and safe "whodunnits" but gritty and terrifying serial killer thrillers. Why that genre?

When William McIlvanney described writing as 'an inexplicable compulsion'  his words must have struck a chord with most authors. I've never been able to explain why I began writing one day, and haven't been able to stop since. It was like turning on a tap. In the same way, I can't explain why I write crime, except to say that it wasn't a conscious choice. People sometimes say their books, or their characters, chose them. It sounds daft until I think about it and realise that I know exactly what they mean!

Some of the methods of killing are quite horrific - How comfortable are you writing it?

All killing is horrific. My books aren't particularly gory because blood and guts don't inspire me - in fact I'm really very squeamish in 'real' life. It seems to me that anatomically we are all pretty similar. But you are absolutely right to say that some of the methods my killers use are horrific. There is a reason for that. Much of the tension in crime fiction is created by the conflict between 'good' characters working on the side of justice, and killers. It's goodies and baddies. The more evil my villains are, the greater the tension becomes, and the more desperate readers will be to see the fictitious killer stopped. Writing detailed descriptions of bloody corpses doesn't inspire me, but there has been a move towards horror in crime fiction. What interests me is what motivates people to carry out such horrific acts.

"Stop Dead" feels slightly different to the previous 4 stories in the series and while the crime is of
the same nature it is presented with a slight shift towards the "whodunnit". Was this the intent?
Yes! Most of my readers are very sophisticated in the genre, and it is difficult to keep one step ahead of them without resorting to absurd plot twists and surprises that really stretch credibility too far. In Stop Dead I made a deliberate attempt to write a novel closer to a 'whodunnit'. It was a challenge to write, and great fun! I have attempted the same in Fatal Act, the next Geraldine Steel title, which has just been published as an ebook. The print book follows in 2014. Hopefully I have again succeeded in increasing the mystery element, without compromising on suspense, of course!

Geraldine Steel has now been featured in 5 books with the 6th due out in May 2014 - are there plans for more?
Lots of plans for lots more. I am about 20,000 words into the 7th Geraldine Steel book. I hope the series will run for twenty books, but who knows what the future holds? As long as readers keep buying the books, I'll carry on writing them, and my publisher will continue to publish them. I should say my publishers (plural) now, as the books are already translated into French, Italian and Turkish, and were recently acquired by a major German publisher as well, plus Harper Collins are now publishing both my series in the USA.

I've always felt that Steel would suit TV - have there been any moves towards it?
Well, it's funny you should ask that... but unfortunately I can't tell you anything more or I'd have to kill you... But seriously, I can tell you that it's a hugely competitive market, so I'll just keep writing the books and hope for the best. Who knows?

DI Peterson span off from the early series and appears in his own book, "Cold Sacrifice". Are there plans for more from him?
Yes. The 2nd in the Ian Peterson series is finished ready for publication in 2014. As I said in answer to your first question, starting to write was like turning on a tap for me. So there's no sign of either series drawing to a close for a while. At the end of Cold Sacrifice, Ian Peterson learns that he is moving to York and that is where the rest of his series will be set. Once I've finished the 7th Geraldine Steel book, I'll be writing the 3rd Ian Peterson.

Geraldine Steel has proved very popular, with her cerebral tenacity and her *chaotic* private life. How is DI Peterson being received?
The character of Geraldine Steel has evolved through her series. With Cold Sacrifice, the first Ian Peterson novel, I knew his character from his appearance alongside Geraldine Steel in Cut Short, Road Closed and Dead End. In some ways that made writing the book easier for me since I had already introduced him to readers. However, it was nerve wracking seeing the book published as my fans were used to Geraldine Steel. Fortunately they have been open-minded about trying a new series, and of course the Geraldine Steel series is continuing. She has a cameo appearance in each of the Ian Peterson books as well, as they keep in touch.

Peterson or Steel? Which do you prefer as characters and are they both as easy to write about?
This is an impossible question to answer!

And ducking that last question was perfectly reasonable - I wouldn't want either of them on my case for saying the wrong thing! Many thanks to Leigh for taking the time to answer our questions and we look forward to May and beyond for further from both of these two crime fighters.

You can find out more about Leigh on her website at leighrussell.co.uk

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Empire of Saviours by AJ Dalton

review by Maryom

In earlier times, past anyone's remembering, the Saviours rescued the People from the forces of Chaos, built fortified towns to protect them and stationed Heroes on the walls to keep out the pagan magick-users who would let Chaos loose on the world again .......  or so the Saviours would have the People believe.
Jillan has lived all his 13 years in such a walled town, Godsend, fearing the unleashing of magick, expecting to have the last elements of it 'drawn' from him as he reaches adulthood. Unfortunately for him, a fight with the school bully leads to him using magick, and the whole town turns against him.

Since I've been writing this review blog I don't seem to have read as much scifi/fantasy as I used to, but I do like it (after all I grew up with Star Trek)  so when I spotted this author give-away on Twitter, I put my hand up straight away.

Empire of the Saviours is a fantasy read on truly epic proportions as it involves everyone from mere humans, through Saints, to the omniscient Saviours who behave at times like a bunch of Greek Gods, directing human actions for their own ends - more of which I think will be revealed in further books.

Fantasy novels are generally long, and even then part of a trilogy or longer series, so although I found it a little slow to get going, with lots of characters being introduced one after the other, that's sort of to be expected. Once the story got going and it became apparent how the various threads interacted, I really enjoyed it. Jillan soon discovers that the world outside his town isn't quite as he's been led to believe, that magick isn't the evil he thought it was and that it can be used for good. Gathering supporters along the way, he realises that he can't just keep running away but must turn and face those seeking to destroy him. It all leads to an enormous battle in which the Saints take over the townspeople's minds - I'm really hoping it's not just me who thought of the final Winchester scene from Shaun of the Dead.

What stops it from getting a five star rating is that I didn't feel engaged with the main characters -  perhaps because Jillan fills that youngster-just-coming-into-his powers role that occurs so often in fantasy, and Aspin seems to fulfil the hero's side-kick role and little else;hopefully they'll both develop with the series. Oddly I found the supporting characters more interesting than the main protagonists - Torpeth a strange comic wise man; Freda, a woman suffering from a disease that has changed her almost into the rock which is her home; and the various bickering, position-jostling Saints and Saviours.

A great new fantasy find.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Gollancz

Genre - Fantasy

Buy Empire of the Saviours (Chronicles of/Cosmic Warlord 1) from Amazon

Monday, 25 November 2013

The Excalibur Codex by James Douglas

Review by The Mole

The legendary sword doesn't exist and never has. Or that's what Jamie, an art recovery expert, believes as does nearly everyone else. Then, following the tragic death of his girlfriend, he is approached by an old friend and shown a codex to a will that says it does exist and was stolen in 1937 - it becomes Jamie's task to recover it. Little does he know the repercussions this task will have on the world around him.

I had expected a mystery along the lines of "The Da Vinci Code" yet I looked forward to reading this - I am not a fan of Dan Brown's work. What I got was a bit of "Romancing the Stone", a bit of "Indiana Jones", a bit of Dan Brown and a fair slice of Janet Evanovich. Oh, and don't forget to add a dollop of Gerard Butler. Quite a recipe!

I found it just a little slow to get started as it set the scene rather than tell the story and at times some of the fight scenes (and it's not short of them) are a bit drawn out but once it picks up momentum it really drags you along despite whatever else you should be doing. About two thirds of the way through we learn who the real plotters are but it came as no surprise to me as it is the nature of book that they would always be the guilty party and I had figured that out VERY early on. Did it spoil the book? No, because it's all  the about the chase and not a whodunnit. And does it all end happily? And the way the reader expects? Well look back to the recipe list and ask yourself  "Could it not?" but is it the way the reader expects? Like Indie stories - I would say no. But that is giving nothing away - it's a fantastically fun read for anyone that enjoys over the top thrillers with a mystery thrown in.

Publisher: Transworld Books
Genre: Crime Thriller

Buy The Excalibur Codex from Amazon

Friday, 22 November 2013

Fountainville by Tishani Doshi

review by Maryom

 "Fountainville is a strange, lonely town on the edge of everywhere, with its own healing secrets, as revealed by Luna, assistant to Begum, the Lady of the Fountain, in this retelling of celtic Mabinogion myth by poet and novelist Tishani Doshi. Under their care the town flourishes, but when the mysterious Mr Knight arrives at their house of 24 women everything begins to change. Aided by Rafi, the giant of the woods and the all-action Leo, events begin to unravel fast for Luna and Begum."

Fountainville is part of Seren's series New Stories from the Mabinogion, in which a variety of authors re-tell the ancient folk-tales in new and surprising settings. In it, Tishani Doshi takes The Lady of the Fountain and transports it from Medieval Wales to modern day Asia, from a world of castles and knights to one of rent-a-womb pregnancies and drug lords.
I wasn't familiar with the original, which is one of those slightly rambling stories of knights fighting other knights for no apparent reason other than that's what they do, beautiful ladies living in castles waiting for the victor to claim them, strange exotic beasts roaming the countryside etc etc. Despite being called The Lady of the Fountain, the lady herself seems a rather peripheral figure and it feels that the focus of the story may have been lost over centuries of re-telling. As you would expect from a modern story, Fountainville has more form and structure to it - a proper beginning, middle and end. The emphasis of the story has changed too, moving from the knight Owain to the women - from passive figures decorating the background, they, and their health-giving fountain, now take centre stage. I felt a little that the connection to the old story was less strong than in some of Seren's series but this may be down to my only reading the original afterwards.

The author's afterword sheds light on the creative process that changed The Lady of the Fountain into Fountainville - the coincidence of catching a documentary on the surrogacy business, the development of the new story and it's changed emphasis. She also mentions two alternative paths the re-telling could have taken - a lion escaped from a circus or a war-time story about a French wish-giving well. I'd really love to read both!


Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher -
Seren Books
Genre -
adult literary fiction, folk tales

Reviews for some of the other stories from this series, and an interview with one of the authors can be found elsewhere on the blog 
 

Buy Fountainville (New Stories from the Mabinogion) from Amazon

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Long Shadow by Liza Marklund

review by Maryom

Journalist Annika Bengtzon is uncovering crime and setting wrongs right in an unusual location this time - the Costa del Sol. When Sebastian Soderstrom, a Swedish ex-hockey star, and his family are killed during a robbery in their luxurious villa just outside Marbella, Annika is sent to cover the story for the Evening Post and to do some follow up articles for a series the paper was running about drug smuggling rings operating through Spain and north to Sweden. With the help of a local interpreter, she gets access to the murder scene and discovers something that no one, not even the police, seems aware of - that the family's teenage daughter is missing. In her own inimitable way, Annika decides to investigate, leading her into the murkier side of the Swedish ex-pat community with links to the drug-smuggling world.

I'm sure Annika Bengtzon won't be everybody's favourite crime-busting journalist - after all, she's opinionated, difficult to work with, intolerant of others and their opinions, and as stroppy as a teenager! But despite that, I really warm to her. She does have her good points - she's always ready to follow her leads and instincts fearlessly at considerable personal risk even, or especially, when no one else agrees with her, and she always gets the story in on time. She isn't merely after an exclusive though - it comes across while she's visiting the Soderstrom's home, that she really does care, particularly for the children involved.
With her personal life going through a desperate phase, Annika's investigation is about all she has in life to depend on. The story unfolds over several months, from New Year to Mid-summer, and takes her to Spain and on to Morocco, teasing out links between the idyllic world of luxury villas and golf courses, and the seedier, violent criminal underworld. The Long Shadow isn't as action-packed or dangerous as some thrillers - in fact at one point I even began to wonder if Annika would end up in her normal life-threatening situation at all - but nonetheless is an entertaining read especially if you like trying to put the pieces together and solve a case as you read.

The only slight downside is that The Long Shadow feels very much like the sequel, even the second half, of a story line that started in Lifetime. It definitely gives spoilers for the previous book and although I don't find that too off-putting (I've read other Annika Bengtzon stories out of sequence) I know it will upset some readers.

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Corgi/Transworld
Genre -
crime


Buy The Long Shadow from Amazon

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

What Are You Playing At by Marie-Sabine Roger

Review by The Mole

When children play, many parents find themselves uncomfortable if they play the "wrong" games and they persuade them to play something more 'gender correct'. This is done so the parent feels more comfortable - not for the child at all.

This book takes many of those common situations and brings them forward to adulthood - through pictures and short strong messages - with each role expanding into a role that any parent would be proud to see their children doing.

Yes, there are young girls playing football and then showing that woman do play very serious international football but there are also those boys playing with dolls expanding into a role I have had the pleasure, nay - honour, to have played twice as father to our two wonderful daughters.

As a lift the flap book it adds appeal to young fingers although it has an important role in being shared with their parents so they can be comfortable with their child's play.

A lovely book with an important message for parents and it is being published on Universal Children's Day - 20th November 2013.

Publisher - Alanna Books
Genre - Children's picture book, Lift-the-flap

Buy What Are You Playing At? from Amazon

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The Emperor's Nightingale and other feathery tales by Jane Ray

 review by Maryom/The Mole

Written and illustrated by Jane Ray, this book brings together 12 stories and poems from around the world with a 'feathery' theme; some familiar - The Owl and the Pussycat, Noah's Ark or Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince - some less so Heron and Hummingbird - a feathery Native American version of Tortoise and Hare - or The Jackdaw of Rheims.

Illustrated using a scraperboard technique that gives an image similar to engraving or woodcuts, the pages don't have that instant colourful look that attracts younger children but I think will appeal to older ones more.

Being a mix of stories and poems, they vary a lot in length - from as short as two pages to as long as thirty and not all of the stories enjoy happy endings which make some of them not suitable for bed time reading. Each tale has a short introduction explaining it's origins and many illustrations - some small, some full page - each with one or two colours.

The series is entitled "The Story Collector" and I am sure this book will appeal to an older generation of collectors who will be able to add to their collection in 2014 with The Little Mermaid and Other Fishy Tales  followed later by Hairy Tales and Whiskery Tales.


Publisher - Boxer Books
Genre - short stories, folk tales, children's illustrated story book

Buy The Emperors Nightingale and Other Feathery Tales from Amazon

Friday, 15 November 2013

The Buccaneering Book Of Pirates by Saviour Pirotta

Illustrated by M P Robertson

Review by The Mole

Some books just sit on a shelf inviting you to pick them up and then you find you can't part with them - you NEED to own them. This is just such a book. The thing that will hit you first is the bright, bold colours of the wonderfully drawn illustrations. You then find a huge pop-up poster tucked inside with pockets and hidden objects that pirates would have owned. And THEN you find the text!

Saviour specialises in writing good clear stories that are
easily readable by children, that actually make them want to read, and he has done it once again here. In retelling these six stories of pirates he brings alive the imagination of young readers in the stories of Blackbeard and Treasure Island as well as lesser known, but equally enthralling, tales of a Corsair Captain and even a Pirate queen. If I had one TINY criticism of this book it would be that the story section could have done with being able to be removed to protect what may well be become a family heirloom.

A beautiful book and with the holiday season coming up why not treat yourself?

Publisher - Frances Lincoln
Genre - Picture Story Book, pop-up, pirates

Buy The Buccaneering Book of Pirates (Pop Up Books) from Amazon

Thursday, 14 November 2013

How To Love by Katie Cotugno

review by Maryom

Serena always had big plans for her life - to leave her Florida home, go to college, travel the world and write about her journey. What her plans didn't include was getting pregnant at 16 while her boyfriend Sawyer took off leaving no word! Move on a few years and Serena has a toddler Hannah, and a new steady boyfriend Aaron. Then Sawyer breezes back as if nothing happened, wanting to pick up where they left off. Serena and Sawyer had only been together for a few months but he'd been the love of her life. Is she willing to take him back now?

This is a really readable, entertaining story but a little too light and fluffy for my taste. It's definitely got an unusual twist for a teen-romance....but...somehow it seems to be giving the wrong message to a teenage readership. There's none of the gritty 'bringing up baby' realism of Malorie Blackman's Boy's Don't Cry or the emotional impact of Juno , no real feel of the responsibilities and pressures brought about by having a child, particularly alone.
It's very much a 'true love conquers all' story and although I'm sure many readers will love the ending, I wasn't happy. How To Love is fine as an escapist love story but please don't treat it as anything else.

Maryom's review - 3.5 stars
Publisher -
Quercus
Genre - teen romance


Buy How to Love from Amazon

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Wake by Anna Hope

review by Maryom

November 1920 - and the body of an unknown soldier is being transported from the battlefields of France to a state funeral in London that will commemorate Armistice Day and the ending of the Great War. Will this help the nation stop mourning the past and start looking forward to the future, or will it just open barely-healed wounds?

For the five days of the Soldier's journey, we follow the lives of three women of different ages and walks of life - Ada, a middle-aged mother who still hopes against hope that her only son may be alive somewhere, and even believes she's seen him on the streets near her home; Evelyn who's mourning her dead lover, hoping to find a new purpose through work at the Pensions Office helping those wounded in the war; and Hettie, the youngest, a professional dancer at Hammersmith Palais, immersing herself in the world of nightclubs and jazz in the hope of finding someone who will take her away from her humdrum life. All of them have been deeply affected by the War and can see others around them picking up the pieces of their shattered lives and moving on, but can't seem to do it themselves. Through their lives moves a young soldier with a tale to tell of the horrors of the battlefield, linking Evelyn's brother and Ada's son.

Wake is a brilliant debut novel, deeply moving, well-plotted and engrossing, about the aftermath of war and its effects not only the combatants directly involved but a far wider circle. At the heart of it lie the stories of three very different women trying to cope with the emptiness of their lives. Along the way there are 'nods' to a lot of 'issues' - women's wartime munitions work, army discipline, the treatment of injured soldiers, the horrors of the trenches or the desperate measures forced on the inhabitants of the war-ravaged countryside  - not as a churning out of facts and statistics but as part of the backdrop to life, helping to create a feel for the era.
There are four plot lines to keep up in the air and moving, but the author manages the balancing act really well, giving them equal attention and not letting any of them falter. The writing style is sparse, letting the characters speak for themselves through words and actions; at times the dialogue says more then several pages of description could have done.

Wake isn't published till January 2014 but as I had an early review copy, it seemed fitting to read over this last weekend in the run up to Armistice Day - at the time of year when it's set.


Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Doubleday
Genre - adult historical fiction, WW1
 

Monday, 11 November 2013

Blood Sisters by Alessandro Perissinotto

review by Maryom

Anna Pavesi is out in the cold and dark digging - not in her garden, but in a wood on the outskirts of Milan, dreading to find what she expects will be there - a hastily buried body.
A little over a week ago, Anna was approached by businesswoman Benedetta Vitali for help with finding the body of her half-sister, Patrizia. The two sisters had barely met but belatedly hearing of Patrizia's death in a road accident, Benedetta feels the body should be interred in the family vault - but it's disappeared! On a friend's mistaken recommendation she contacts Anna Pavesi who is actually a psychologist but agrees to help out - at first mainly for the money but soon becomes intrigued by the puzzling things she discovers....until she begins to feel threatened herself..


Purely by coincidence I read Blood Sisters straight after The Lost by Claire McGowan - another novel in which the central character is a psychologist-turned-sleuth - but whereas The Lost's heroine, Paula Maguire, works alongside the police, Blood Sister's Anna Pavesi is more of a private eye, snooping around on her own with no one to call for back up when things start to get frightening. 
Whereas the previous crime novels I've read from Hersilia have been translations of older novels set in the 1950s-60s, Blood Sisters brings Italian crime up to date. Anna Pavesi is an independent career woman, separated from her cheating husband and trying to make ends meet on her own - not too successfully, which is why she finds Benedetta's offer so tempting. The story swaps between Anna digging furtively, hoping she'll turn up the final piece of the puzzle, and her attempts to take her mind off the danger she's in, by going over the steps that led her to this place. The plot twists and turns, with unexpected discoveries about Patrizia, her life and relationships along the way - and it's always nice to not be able to predict the ending and for once I couldn't! I wouldn't say it was a total surprise but it wasn't what I was expecting.
One thing that really struck me was the setting.  To many of us Italy is a romantic destination for holidays but the landscape of Blood Sisters isn't one of glorious beaches, quaint medieval towns, or dazzling ski slopes but as gloomy as dull as anywhere closer to home - the scruffy industrialised area around Milan in late winter is damp and dreary, constantly wreathed in fog with endless traffic queues. I suppose it just proves that anywhere can be dull and mundane if you live and work there, rather than visit briefly.


Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Hersilia Press
Genre - crime, adult fiction, 

 Buy Blood Sisters: An Anna Pavesi Investigation from Amazon

Friday, 8 November 2013

Snail Trail by Jo Saxton

Review by The Mole

Written in rhyme this book follows a snail trail as it winds around modern art - encouraging the reader to look and see and to be creative with any media that comes to hand in their own art. Some pieces may not suit the individual's taste while others are classics loved by all. Aimed at the very young, this book will give much to talk about as the snail passes pictures that are not of him before arriving at the final picture.

Putting that to one side, the rhyming is easy and fun and as early reader material it will be popular for lots of reasons.

The artists and works are not credited on the page - so as to keep the story simple - but a complete list is available at the back which also tells where they can be viewed.

All in all a lovely book for youngsters and parents to share.

Publisher - Frances Lincoln
Genre - Children's poetry, early reader (6+),  poetry, art

Buy Snail Trail: In Search of a Modern Masterpiece from Amazon

Thursday, 7 November 2013

The Lost by Claire McGowan

 review by Maryom

Paula Maguire is a forensic psychologist known among the people she works with for too much impulsiveness and a tendency to rush in when police procedures and rules would have her sit quietly in an office. Even so, her ability to get results in missing-persons cases means she's in demand. When two girls go missing within weeks of each other back in Paula's home town of Ballyterrin in Northern Ireland, she's asked to go back there to help out. For a variety of personal reasons, she isn't too keen to return to the place she left 12 years before, but grudgingly goes.
Despite the passage of time, Ballyterrin is a town still smarting from the Troubles - almost everyone seems to have lost a family member during them - but the disappearance of two schoolgirls has shocked the community.
While the police want to follow one line of enquiry, Paula's impulsive streak leads her off on her own, following tenuous links to the Mission, a religious group targeting the town's teenage girls, and trying to find a connection with disappearances back in the 1980s. Her impulsive side also comes out in her personal life - starting a relationship with one of her colleagues and re-igniting one with an old flame!
The Lost is an enjoyable, page-turner of a read - though some of the events are a little predictable, leaving the story less nail-bitingly tense than some crime novels. I'm often opposed to too much personal story-line for the characters, feeling it can get in the way of the crime-solving, but here the progress of the investigation and the revealing of Paula's personal story twist round and complement each other, helping flesh out the characters and giving a nicely balanced read. All of the characters have faults enough to make them real but are still likeable enough for the reader to care about them. Paula's problems seem far from over at the end of the novel and I was certainly left wanting to know what would happen next ...

With a strong female lead and the closeness of the personal and crime sides of the plot, it reminded me of Liza Marklund's thrillers featuring Annika Bengtzon. I hope this is the start of another such great series.


Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Headline
Genre - adult crime


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Missing Ellen by Natasha Mac a'Bhaird

review by Maryom

Ellen and Maggie have been friends since their first day at school, always there for each other, sharing everything, as close, if not closer, than sisters. But now Ellen is no longer there and Maggie is trying to make sense of what happened and of her feelings of loss and abandonment. To help her come to terms with them, she starts writing to Ellen, letters that will never be posted, but that help Maggie put into words things that she can't say to her family or friends.

Told alternately through Maggie's letters and a series of flashbacks, Missing Ellen is a story of friendship and loss. Told in the first person, it brings an immediacy to her feelings though for the sake of preserving the mystery of what has happened to Ellen, Maggie doesn't reveal everything at once.
It soon becomes apparent that Maggie and Ellen had been drifting apart for some time - while Maggie wanted to join in the school drama group, helping to make costumes, Ellen's idea of fun was getting drunk with her older boyfriend. And this was my only reservation with the book - that Maggie was a little too 'goodie goodie', Ellen so very, very bad and the moralistic attitude that if you're in the 'bad' category, then worse will befall you.
It's a great story though of friendship and growing up, and the strains that come with it. It's less cutting and not as dark as some 'real life' teen fiction so perhaps suitable for the younger end of the range and even pre-teens.

Maryom's review -  4 stars
Publisher - O'Brien Press
Genre - teen fiction, 
 

Buy Missing Ellen from Amazon

Monday, 4 November 2013

Hot Air by Sandrine Dumas Roy;illustrated by Emmanuelle Houssais


review by Maryom

The ice has been melting too fast and the world hotting up too much, so the animals decide to get to the bottom of the problem. It seems the cows are at fault with, dare we say it?, farting too much. All their gas is upsetting the weather and making the world far too uncomfortable. Can the animals come up with a solution? Maybe that gas could even be put to some use?

As you may have guessed, this book sheds a humorous light on the problems of global warming. There aren't going to be many kids that don't giggle every time the cows' farting problem gets mentioned but it isn't just about grabbing their attention using a 'naughty' word.
The writing is eye-catching with changes of font size, and the illustrations are bright and quirky with lots of weird and wonderful contraptions that the animals use in their investigations. The story gives lots of scope for asking 'what would you do?' and encouraging children to think about global warming and perhaps come up with their own suggestions of how it might be tackled.

Publisher - Phoenix Yard Books
Genre - Children's picture book, Environmental Issues

Buy Hot Air from Amazon

Friday, 1 November 2013

Rags and Bones edited by Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt

review by Maryom

Subtitled New Twists on Timeless Tales, this collection takes a new look at twelve old and perhaps familiar stories. The editors approached some of their favourite writers, asking them to revisit stories that had inspired or moved them and re-work them from their essential 'rags and bones'. So there are new versions of fairy tales such as Sleeping Beauty and Rumplestiltskin, and of classic tales from Spenser's The Faerie Queene to Sheridan Le Fanu's vampire Carmilla and Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King; there's science fiction, dystopian and fantasy, in fact a little of everything.
This book arrived unexpectedly for review but I immediately marked it down as a 'must read' - and it didn't disappoint; in fact, with its mix of literary and genre, it proved to be one of the most compelling collections I've read. You might be drawn in by the big names - Neil Gaiman and Garth Nix - but all the stories are quite wonderful. Anyone who loves fantasy will be drawn in and mesmerised and for anyone who thinks 'genre' isn't their kind of thing, bare in mind that some of these stories are based on ones from literary heavyweights such as Henry James, Nathaniel Hawthorne and EM Forster and give them a go.

Contributors: Saladin Ahmed, Kelley Armstrong, Holly Black, Neil Gaiman, Kami Garcia, Melissa Marr, Garth Nix, Tim Pratt, Carrie Ryan, Margaret Stohl, Gene Wolfe, Rick Yancey with illustrations by Charles Voss

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Headline
Genre - adult short stories, fantasy, dystopian, sci-fi, literary


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