Friday, 30 January 2015

Colette McBeth - The Life I Left Behind - Blog Tour!

 
 Today we're delighted to welcome Colette McBeth as part of the blog tour for her latest psychological thriller - The Life I Left Behind - sharing her thoughts on what she would like to change in her life and how she'd like to be remembered....  
 
 
What I’d like to leave behind… 

There’s a passage in The Life I Left Behind, one of the few from the after world, where Eve recalls discussing her regrets with the others who are in limbo with her. ‘Mainly it was the mundane preoccupations people would change. I wouldn’t, for instance, have agonised for weeks over which shade of white to paint my kitchen.’

I did wonder when I wrote those lines if Eve was talking directly to me. I’m a sucker for a paint chart. I’ve probably spent an annual salary on those little tester pots. In truth, it’s unlikely I’ll stop. But if Eve was talking to me she should know I haven’t ignored her completely. Writing her made me realise how fragile life is, that we don’t get to choose the moment we’ll go. If she’s taught me anything it’s how to get things in perspective; the unfinished interior projects, the laundry pile, the kids dressing like they’ve been shopping blindfolded at TK Maxx. They don’t matter. Not really.

If you allow them to, and I often do, there are millions of trivial worries that can consume you. Sometimes my head feels like one throbbing, ever changing to -do list. So in Eve’s honour I’m trying to care less about them because if I go what I’d like to leave behind is this; a live well lived. Not a list ticked off. I want to free up space in my head to enjoy the moment, allow my children one last kick of the ball in the park and silence the ticking clock in my head that screams ‘It’s almost tea time, we’ve got to go home.’ I don’t want to lose sleep about school costumes, or present I’ve forgotten to send. Finding time for a friend, making her laugh, smiling at a stranger in the street, talking to an old lady because I might be the only person she’ll talk to all day, all week, that’s what matters.
I’ve often thought I’d like to leave behind letters to my children, doling out sage advice when they come of age. If I was organised I’d write them now, tell them how much I love them, tell the boys to remember to change their clothes occasionally, that deodorant doesn’t count if you haven’t washed, that even when their heart is broken it will repair. Tell my daughter she is beautiful, that she can do anything she wants, urge her to stand out, not follow, that when she’s older she doesn’t have to wax everywhere if she doesn’t want to.
But knowing me I’ll never get around to it. So instead I’ll try to change a little bit every day. Because if I do go, inconveniently and before my time, that way they might remember me not as an angry clock watcher, cajoling them to get in the bath, get out of the bath, do their homework, go to sleep. They might remember me as someone who loved life enough not to give a shit.  And they might do the same.
If that’s all I could leave behind it would be enough.



To find out more about Colette McBeth
visit her author website
            publisher website
check out Maryom's reviews The Life I Left Behind 
                                             Precious Thing

Thursday, 29 January 2015

As Good As It Gets? by Fiona Gibson

review by Maryom
16 years ago, pregnant Charlotte was abandoned by her boyfriend Fraser and left to bring up their daughter Rosie alone. Since then she hasn't seen Fraser once, but found love and happiness in a new relationship with Will to whom she's now been married nearly 15 years. Recently though things have hit a dull patch, companionship has replaced romance, and recently redundant Will seems to be having a mid-life crisis. All fun seems to be reserved for the younger generation, particularly Rosie who's just landed a modelling contract with a top agency. Charlotte feels that somewhere, somehow, she's missing out and life is passing her by. Is this as good as it gets? When Fraser suddenly turns back up on the scene, Charlotte begins to wonder if life with him would have worked out better ....

I first discovered Fiona Gibson last year with Take Mum Out a laugh out loud look at dating for the slightly more mature, and although I didn't find as many laughs in As Good As It Gets? this is still a light-hearted chick lit style tale for the mid-life crisis age group. After all the romance and happy-ever-afters of romantic fiction come the long years of juggling housework, jobs, childcare, with no time any more for romantic dinners for two - and this is where Charlotte and Will find themselves. With a husband who is alternately moody and secretive or trying to live it up by partying all hours with the new neighbours, it's not surprising that Charlotte might start to wonder about the choices she's made in life! Poor Will certainly comes in for some prat-fall moments - 'dirty dancing' at the neighbours' party, dusting down his leather trousers to appear young and hip - and then having them eaten, in strategic places, by an escaped rabbit. How can he hope to compete with Fraser who, by his absence has remained forever young in Charlotte's imagination?


Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher -
Harper Collins (Avon)

Genre - adult, romcom/chick lit, humour

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Favourite Irish Books #IrishFictionFortnight

  BleachHouseLibrary blog is currently holding an #IrishFictionFortnight focussing on, well you've guessed, Irish writers and their works, and I've been visiting regularly, discovering new writers and entering some of the giveaways. It all started me thinking about my favourite Irish writers and books ..... and the list kept growing...

 Even in an English school the curriculum was liberally sprinkled with Irish fiction - from Swift's Gulliver's Travels in primary school to WB Yeats' poetry, Synge and O'Casey's plays and  James Joyce and Samuel Beckett novels at secondary. After school I discovered more recent authors through my local library - Maeve Binchy, Edna O'Brien, John Banville, Colm Toibin and Roddy Doyle - but I think it's only since I've started blogging and, importantly, chatting about books on Twitter that the vast range of Irish writing has become apparent.

So.... favourites.... well, my Top Ten stretched a little to eleven recommendations, and then I asked The Mole who dominated a Top Three...

Number one spot has to go to relative newcomer, Donal Ryan - he's only two novels to his name so far, but what stunners they are! Multi-voiced The Spinning Heart and its 'prequel'  The Thing About December will wring your heart and make you laugh and everything in-between.

 I've long been aware of John Boyne but mainly thought of him as a children's writer, probably due to the publicity surrounding The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Last year though I read his latest adult novel A History of Loneliness looking at the sex scandals in the Irish church from the point of view of an innocent priest. It's hard-hitting and moving, and made me determined to read more by the author.


Hoping that place of birth qualifies her as Irish, I'd like to include Maggie O'Farrell, especially The Hand That First Held Mine and Instructions For A Heatwave
and in a similar vein of fiction, debut author Johanna Lane's Black Lake a story of a family in crisis, trying to cope with overwhelming loss.

Another impressive debut last year came from Audrey Magee with The Undertaking set in Germany and on its Eastern front during WW2.






I read a lot of crime thrillers so had to include some from both north and south of the border -
Claire McGowan's thrillers  The Lost and  The Dead Ground set in the fictional border town of Ballyterrin which mix present day crime with the legacy of The Troubles;                                                                       
Niamh O'Connor's Dublin-set Jo Birmingham series starting with If I Never See You Again
Colin Bateman's Dan Starkey series that I've just discovered with The Dead Pass
                                                                
Neil Mackay's All The Little Guns Went Bang, Bang, Bang is a different, extremely disturbing, crime novel exploring how violence begets violence as two eleven year olds embark on a Natural Born Killers style spree of increasing brutality. Chilling stuff.

Time for something lighter ... I discovered Maria Duffy's light-hearted novels of everyday life through chatting on Twitter, so her novel Any Dream Will Do about virtual Twitter friends meeting up in real life seems really appropriate.

Also through Twitter I discovered Denise Deegan and her insightful teen /YA Butterfly novels dealing with a range of teenage problems from bullying to pregnancy.


So there's my picks - what would The Mole choose....

Eoin Colfer and Artemis Fowl and the Last Guardian has to be my favourite! What is not to love about Artemis and Holly Short? Well actually as this is the last of the Artemis Fowl books I suppose just that - an end of series, never a happy time.

Alan Monaghan and The Soldier's Song also has to be my favourite. It is a story of the First World War and Stephen enlists as an officer in the British Army. For Stephen
it as a time of horrors and loss and the book deserved far more accolades than it got.

Brian Gallagher's  Stormclouds is set during the troubles in Northern Ireland and is a book you won't "enjoy" but may get a better understanding of the lives that the citizens of NI, particularly children, lived at that time. It's a book well worth reading but be strong and stick it out.




To find more visit BleachHouseLibrary or follow the #IrishFictionFortnight tag on Twitter

Monday, 26 January 2015

An Experiment in Love by Hilary Mantel

review by Maryom

It's 1970 and Carmel McBain is off to start a new life for herself, leaving behind her northern mill-town home and heading for London and university. Free from the constraints of the family home and filled with a wonderful sense of opportunity, Carmel embraces her new life with enthusiasm but her childhood isn't that easily abandoned as two of her school friends end up in the same hall-of-residence; Julianne with her string of boyfriends and Karina with her down to earth practicality and enormous appetite. They and the other students at Tonbridge Hall soon find that life isn't as easy as they'd expected and as with so many coming of age stories, there's heartache, disappointment and a brush with tragedy to be encountered along the way.

Mention Hilary Mantel and most people will immediately think of her long historical novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies ,so it might come as a surprise to know she's also written shorter, more contemporary novels. I first discovered them a couple of years ago with Fludd and An Experiment In Love has been sitting waiting on my TBR pile for frankly too long. What all these books share is the slipping inside another mind-set, the sharing of another person's outlook on life, whether that be an important historical figure like Thomas Cromwell or a fictitious 18 year old such as Carmel.

Instead of the intrigues of the Tudor court, here the reader is introduced to the behind the scenes secrets of a university hall of residence; with just as many hidden agendas and deceptions - from stretching the meagre grant and all-night studying, to boyfriends, unwanted pregnancies, eating disorders and quick-burn resentments.

In style and length it's reminiscent of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar and Françoise Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse; a bitter-sweet, first person narrative of the lives of young women on the cusp between child and adult, at a time of life so full of possibilities, but which could easily tip into tragedy.

If you've loved Wolf Hall, or been daunted by its sheer scale, don't miss this. At a personal level I found this to be an unexpected trip down memory lane; although I'm several years younger than the character of Carmel, her childhood echoed mine and brought back things I'd long forgotten from the strange headgear of boys in the early '60s to comics with stories that gripped me.

Is it an adult novel or young adult? Well, in the time it's set, back before YA existed, I'd have read it as a teenager - and Carmel probably would have done too! One for all ages over 16.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher -
Fourth Estate
Genre - YA/adult fiction




Friday, 23 January 2015

Unthology 6 edited by Ashley Stokes and Robin Jones

Review by The Mole

Let's admit it... I am a fan of short stories and a particular fan of the Unthology series. This, the latest offering, is a slightly different - but still fantastic - collection.

The first story creeped me out a bit but, yes, it was funny when you get past that. The second story contains a paradox which is both funny and thought provoking. The third story had me wondering "why" but understanding at the same time. And so the collection goes on. Funny, sad, thought provoking, creepy (yes, Jonathan Pinnock!) and frequently a combination of all of them.

I don't normally have a favourite but this collection contains one that really did reach me big time... Stalemate by Simon Griffiths - the story of an older man who is still as sharp as a knife but watching all his friends ageing and dying around him. He is befriended by one of the male nurses who still credits him with everything he is and ever was. A brilliant story amongst a collection of other most excellent stories (even Jonathan Pinnocks! I'm not fond of bees).

Yet another truly fabulous collection compiled by these two editors who, for me, don't seem able to put a foot wrong. Many are a coffee time read but some may take a little longer - but you deserve a longer coffee break.

I have read the previous 3 books in the Unthology collection and you can read their reviews here:- Unthology 3, Unthology 4, Unthology 5

Publisher - Unthank Books
Genre - Adult short story anthology

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Salvage by Keren David

Review by The Mole

Aidan and Cass are brother and sister, separated when very young and taken into care. Cass was adopted quickly by a well to do family and has all the breaks. Aidan was rejected and put into care, fostered, fought over and again rejected and has had nothing but the bad breaks in life.

Under the rules they are denied access to each other and so have completely lost touch. When Cass's parents split up it becomes public knowledge as her father is a government minister and Aidan then sees Cass's photo in the papers. Searching Facebook he finds her...

Although I found fault with each character I did find myself caring enough to find that fault. Cass is too compliant - what her parents want her to be then that's what she'll become. Aidan means well but is always sure that he will fail in everything.

The end brings about many solutions that I hadn't expected - as well as many issues that came as a surprise - and rounded the story off excellently. Is the story optimistic? Well, yes but is that such a bad thing? There are many positives in there for youngsters - and parents - to take away with them and that makes the whole thing worth while.

Keren David has a way of writing that holds your attention - if she wrote the shipping forecast then the ratings would go up no end! An excellent and enthralling read that seems all too short when you turn the last page.

Publisher - Atom Books
Genre - YA

Monday, 19 January 2015

Sweet Home by Carys Bray

review by Maryom

This book first came our way nearly two years ago, but short story collections usually end up with The Mole so he reviewed it then and it was only after reading the author's debut novel A Song For Issy Bradley that I thought of reading it for myself. What a delight I'd missed!

These stories all relate in one way or another to home and family, but none really live up to the expected idyll of  "Home, Sweet Home"; rather they explore the stresses and strains of everyday life, and the gap between expectations and reality. Even if they've never been in precisely the same circumstances, parents will find much to relate to here - the tiresomeness of following the 'rules' of good motherhood, a father's fears of accidentally hurting his fragile baby, another's desperate attempts to save his drug-addict son, or the understanding that comes too late of why parents' behaviour can seem so mean to a child.  I hope I'm not making this sound like a collection filled with doom and gloom - it's far from that; laughter bubbles through, sometimes, especially from children, in the most inappropriate of moments.
 There are also new twists on the Gingerbread House from Hansel and Gretel, and the Russian folk tale Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden, and a wry look at what you might actually purchase in the supermarket's 'baby aisle'.

I think it's fair to say I loved each and every story in its own way, and, with a blend of the literary and accessible, Carys Bray is fast growing into one of my favourite authors, for short or longer fiction.


 Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Salt Publishing

Genre - Adult literary fiction, short stories

Friday, 16 January 2015

The Winter Wolf by Holly Webb

Review by The Mole

Amelia is hiding from Freddie, Tom's rather large dog, as she has a fear of dogs, when she discovers a diary. The diary tells the story of Noah, a young boy in America, who is trying to keep a baby wolf safe from hunters.

Amelia falls asleep and when she awakes she has been transported into Noah's world to help him with saving the wolf.

A beautiful and gentle time shift story that brings to life, for the young reader, life in America during the frontier years.

The story is told in two parts that are interleaved. The narrator tells the story of Amelia while each chapter has an excerpt from Noah's diary that is in a handwritten font and told purely from his perspective.

Black and white illustrations abound throughout the book and the whole thing is an excellent and very easy read.

For readers in the 6-8 age group this book will delight.

Publisher - Stripes Publishing
Genre - Children's early reader

Thursday, 15 January 2015

The Liar's Chair by Rebecca Whitney

review by Maryom

Speeding through country lanes on her way home from a night with her lover, Rachel Teller hits and kills a man. Hastily hiding the body in nearby woods, she carries on home to her husband David - who seems remarkably unfazed by his wife admitting to a hit and run incident, in fact quite comfortable with it providing no one can trace it to them. With the evidence destroyed, he settles back to normal as if nothing has occurred. Rachel, though, becomes increasingly tormented by guilt, and her behaviour turns erratic and self-destructive, putting their business and the luxurious life they've built at risk.

I'm really in two minds about this book. It's well told, gripping, and fulfils all the criteria for an excellent psychological thriller BUT I found it difficult to relate to the characters, and especially to find any sympathy for Rachel. Her marriage was obviously one of convenience rather than love but when David turns vindictive and abusive, trying his utmost to humiliate and degrade Rachel, I couldn't understand why she accepted this and stayed. Maybe her back story emerged too late - as when it does, it becomes clear what a damaged person she is, how worthless she has always felt and how ready to be dominated by a forceful man; maybe I just like my heroines to have more gumption.

This is Rebecca Whitney's first novel and I'm hoping there'll be more - and just hope another time I feel more connection with the characters.

Maryom's review - 3 stars
Publisher -
Mantle (Panmacmillan)

Genre - adult psychological thriller

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Above by Isla Morley

review by Maryom

 On the day of her Kansas town's annual picnic and carnival, sixteen year old schoolgirl Blythe is abducted. Tricked by someone she knows and trusts into believing her brother has had an accident, she finds herself driven to a disused missile silo - and imprisoned there. At first stunned into disbelief by what has happened, she expects to be found and rescued after at most a few days, but as time drags on she begins to feel she could be there for life. Her captor, school librarian and survivalist Dobbs Hordin, believes he's saved her - rescued her from terrible events which are going to wipe out civilisation. He's got to be delusional though, hasn't he?

 This is a book that I'd heard a lot about through various bloggers on social media, so although the Mole has already reviewed it back in May I thought I'd treat the paperback publication as an excuse to read it myself.
Knowing about it turned out to be a bit of a disadvantage, so I'm hoping not to give away more here. I'd heard in quite some detail about the plot twist in the middle so knew what to expect and how things were more or less going to end. This meant that I raced through the beginning which, in retrospect, I think was the better half of the book. Blythe's plight, initial shock, followed by anger then acceptance coupled with Dobbs' creepy attempts to win her over, are all brilliantly portrayed. Their relationship see-saws with the power first being on one side, then briefly the other, rocking back and forth between Dobbs and Blythe. At times I thought that Blythe, worn down by years of incarceration, missed out on opportunities to manipulate Dobbs, but on the other hand she'd had no other human contact for so long and no chance to mature beyond her age when abducted.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Two Roads
Genre - Adult fiction

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

review by Maryom

Every morning as her commuter train stops at the same signals, Rachel looks at the houses with gardens backing onto the tracks, and makes up lives for the people who live there, specifically one couple that she names "Jess and Jason", for whom she dreams up an idyllic life, full of love and happiness, as far from her own solitary existence as possible. Then one day Rachel sees something which makes her realise that they and their lives are not so perfect after all - and when 'Jess' goes missing shortly afterwards, Rachel feels compelled to share what she knows with the police. Is she really trying to help, or just muscle in on someone else's life and gain attention?

 The Girl on the Train is a wonderfully gripping psychological thriller, in which no one is quite as they appear to be; they all hide secrets of varying degrees, from the petty to the complete game-changer - and it's very difficult to write about without giving them away.

 It's told mainly from the point of view of Rachel - a depressed, divorced alcoholic and the most unreliable narrator ever. She doesn't deliberately withhold pertinent facts - it's just that after a night out drinking, she can't remember a thing. She wakes with cuts and bruises, and no recollection of how she came by them! She'll believe almost anything she's told about the missing time and such huge blank spots are just waiting for someone to exploit them.
Interspersed with Rachel's narrative is that of 'Jess', or Megan as her real name is, telling her story from a year before and so leading up to the point of her disappearance, and Anna, the lover of Rachel's ex-husband, now his second wife. Rachel's and Anna's accounts frequently overlap, seeing the same scene played out from different angles; sometimes Rachel's version seemed more credible, sometimes Anna's - and sometimes both were being deliberately misled by their 'shared' husband.
As a main character, Rachel is someone you'll either sympathise with or hate - and the author seems to hang back, making no judgements herself but leaving it to the reader to decide. Is Rachel in her desperation to help, merely interfering to grab a bit of the limelight, or does she truly feel she has something to contribute and is trying to regain some of her own self-worth? I rather liked her - yes, she's got some flaws -huge ones- but overall I felt on 'her side'.

Many page-turning thrillers leave me by the end feeling that they've given up all their secrets. I don't think this has. With its triple story-lines, I'm sure I've missed at least a couple of hints and clues along the way, especially in Jess/Megan's account set in the previous year, so I'm definitely looking forward to a re-read.



Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Doubleday
Genre- adult psychological thriller

Monday, 12 January 2015

The Last Witness by Denzil Meyrick

Review by The Mole

A DCI Daley Thriller

Gerry Dowie is living under the witness protection system tucked away in Australia when he is brazenly murdered, in broad daylight in front of CCTV and so is his wife. The images show clearly that his murderer is James Machie, JayMac, a man who was murdered in an ambulance 5 years earlier while in police custody. Clearly he's back from the grave and out for vengeance against all who betrayed him or who were involved in his capture.

DCI James Daly and DS Brian Scott in Kinloch, Scotland, were instrumental in his downfall as were others in the witness protection programme. When the Macdougall family start dying one by one and a bomb destroys Daley's car then things start to get worrying.

Fast paced, bloody and violent this book moves fast and the reader is always one step ahead - but I found myself one step ahead on the wrong path! There is no massive plot twist, more lots of little ones that send you back thinking and rethinking before moving forward again. These twistlets continue right to the end and the reader knows that there is a much bigger case to be solved - if that's possible - and it's not going to be in this book!

I am not a fan of every fictional detective going but have a small list of favourites and Daley certainly deserves a place on my list. What's not to like about him? His sidekick is not some lackey who does exactly what he's told and Daley doesn't know if he can trust him or not, although he a close friend. His boss is someone they don't get on with - but read on, say no more. Of course though, like so many modern fictional detectives, his private life doesn't run smoothly.

I found that every character in the book came alive and I had an opinion on them even if I didn't understand their relationship to the others until the end - if this is the end.

Every cliché of rivetting, unputdownable etc. is well deserved in this excellent thriller and I will certainly be watching out for more Daley.

Publisher - Polygon
Genre - Crime thriller

Friday, 9 January 2015

The Very Embarrassing Book of Dad Jokes by Ian Allen

Review by The Mole

My daughter generally buys me a book each Christmas that is either based on a comedy TV series or one that is packed with jokes and I have to admit it becomes a bit of a highlight for me.

This year it was this gem. Many of this collection can be retitled "Christmas cracker jokes" - and if that sounds bad may I assure it's not. One cracker joke on its own may grate but when they come thick and fast then they become all the funnier for it - even when you are sober.

But as you read the 223 pages you will need to share them with whoever can stand your company while you tell them - the ones you really need to share.

Once again she has made a great choice for a great present and while many aren't "new" it was surprising how many were.

"How do you turn a duck into a soul singer? - put it in a microwave until its bill withers"
"What was Beethoven's fifth favourite fruit? - ba-na-na-na"

223 glorious pages of them.

Publisher - Portico
Genre - humour

Thursday, 8 January 2015

The Crooked House by Christobel Kent

review by Maryom

Thirteen years ago Esme was the only member of her family to emerge unscathed after a night of horrific violence in which her mother, brother, and twin sisters were killed before her father presumably turned his gun on himself. Now, calling herself Alison, she's created a new anonymous life in London and thought the past was well behind her - until her boyfriend asks her to join him at a wedding in the very village the tragedy occurred. Alison's hopes of slipping in and out of the place unnoticed soon fade - even if they don't say anything, the locals have recognised her - and, despite her initial terror at returning, she finds herself drawn to the lonely crooked house where she once lived - compelled to confront the past she's tried so hard to suppress. As her memories flood back, she soon starts to question the 'official' version of what happened on that horrific night...but if her father wasn't responsible for the shootings, who was?
The Crooked House is a novel with a great sense of place and stalking evil. Saltleigh is a remote community situated between estuary and marshes; one that no one visits accidentally, that takes generations to belong in, one that closes ranks against outsiders and refuses to reveal its secrets. Alison's childhood home was isolated even further - a lonely dilapidated house surrounded by windswept marshes, reached by it's own access track. Coming back after so many years, it feels to Alison like a place where evil taints the air and that her personal tragedy was just one of a long list; a toddler killed in a house fire, a child dying of cancer, a hit and run teenage death.
After the initial shock opening, the story starts a little slowly, building Alison's current situation in London, her relationships with work colleagues and  much older boyfriend. When the setting moves to Saltleigh, the pace and menace pick up, and Alison's carefully constructed peace of mind rapidly unravels.

It's a page-turning tale of buried secrets that had me guessing to the end - I was just left wondering about the motivation of some of the characters, and at how lazy the original police investigation had been.

Maryom's Review - 4 stars
Publisher - Sphere 
Genre - adult psychological thriller

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Pyramid by David Gibbins

Review by The Mole

When a story of a soldier emerging from a Cairo sewer in 1892 having been trapped underground for years comes to the attention of Jack Howard it builds on the intrigue created by the discoveries he had made of the Pharaoh Akhenaten (Pharoah). In order to pursue this he needs to go to Egypt but there is political turmoil and Egypt is on the verge of revolution.

Packed with adventure, heroism and action, this book's pace does sometimes leave you breathless - but somehow you just know things are going to work out. And facts... As a reader of fiction I never know or can be sure where the lines are between fact, supposition and fiction are. Many of the facts are true - the soldiers of history really existed as did the Pharaoh and we've all heard about Nefertiti although the ship carrying Akhenaten's sarcophagus hasn't been found but it's location is believed to be in that general neck-of-the-woods. The underground complex hasn't been found, but the evidence of it's existence is real enough. And so it goes on. I almost wish I had a notebook on hand during the reading but that would spoil the fiction.

Jack Howard is the kind of hero who is extremely cerebral, introverted and highly respectful of women, extremely fit so he can free dive to record depths - and survive - and an uncanny shot with a pistol, so he's something for everyone.

A fast fun read in the most part with occasional slower, more history based sections. But towards the end you may find your anger picqued by the violence of the revolutionaries although this is happening today in the world and it started after the book was written - and not a sick creation of the author.

Publisher -Headline
Genre - Adult fiction, action adventure



Monday, 5 January 2015

Another year, another set of plans....

It's that time when everyone's making plans for all the great things they're going to be doing this year but I thought before I started on any huge New Year resolutions I'd see how last year's went....

I'd intended making time for some 'extra-curricular' reading - catching up with my personal stash of books, reading novels and authors that come highly recommended but which I've somehow missed, and re-reading some old favourites.

So how did it all go? Well, I managed to read some of my own book hoard - Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick, Peter Ho's The Welsh Girl, Doug Johnstone's Gone Again, David Nicholls' Starter for Ten, Martin Cruz Smith's Stalin's Ghost, Toby's Room by Pat Barker - and a few that I abandoned by the 50th page.

The second part of my plans actually went well but not quite in the direction I'd expected.
 Out of my original list, I read two out of the seven Deborah Moggach books, Tulip Fever and Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and got as far as downloading some Chekhov short stories to the Kindle, but that was it! The other suggestions are still awaiting my attention.
 On the other hand, I tracked down, mainly through the library, quite a few books I'd heard praised on social media - The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes, Snowdrops by AD Miller, Pat Barker's Regeneration (I only made it through the first of the trilogy) and The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North -  extra books from some newly-discovered authors - The Flying Man by Roopa Farooki, The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan, the first of Steven Dunne's Reaper series - and some by old favourites - Iain Banks' The Quarry, Peaches for Monsieur le Cure by Joanne Harris, the latest Bridget Jones story, Mad About the Boy, by Helen Fielding

And as for re-visiting old favourites? That was really a non-starter though in August I re-read George Orwell's 1984, which fell a bit flat, and in December I joined in an initiative started on Winstonsdad's blog to celebrate five years of Peirene Press by re-reading all of their back catalogue. The first three -  Beside The Sea by Veronique Olmi, Stone in a Landslide by Maria Barbal and Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman by Friedrich Christian Delius - proved as compelling as I remembered them, and I'm hoping to continue re-reading the rest of Peirene's offerings throughout this year.


Now on to my 'new' plans.... there are LOTS of exciting new books coming out this year - with Kate Atkinson and Kazuo Ishiguro at the top of my 'must read' list, and new thrillers from Steven Dunne and Liza Marklund.

But aside from the hot-off-the-press books;
 - I've acquired three (yes, three!) large boxes of sci-fi and fantasy, which I NEED to read to clear some floor space, and I've won another pile of books, all by women writers, which I hope to work my way through (I've actually already read two of them so I'm off to a head start).

- I'm going to try again to find time for Chekhov, Donna Tartt and last year's list of recommendations, and I've been picking through everyone's Picks of the Year lists and making notes and determining to read some of those, plus investigating the back catalogues of authors that are fairly new to me, such as John Boyne or Roopa Farooki.
 
- And I'm still hoping to re-visit some old favourites starting with the Peirene retrospective but hoping to read far more.

I just wonder where I'll find the time!