Saturday 30 October 2010

The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt

Airships too!
Review by TheMole

I found a synopsis of Stephen Hunt's "The court of the Air" and was a little intrigued. I tested out the libraries recent addition to it's online facilities and ordered a copy of the book which arrived quickly. At nearly 600 pages in length it seemed a little daunting at first but I quickly got into the stories. It is a little strange as a plot line as the Hero and Heroine, who are both orphans, hardly meet in the story and their journeys through the book hardly cross except at a couple of brief points. In addition to that we have 'co stars' whose continued survival in the plot cannot be guaranteed no matter what the 'prophets' may say. I found there to be rather a lot of characters coming and going as we move between not 2 lines through the plot but sometimes 4 or 5 lines. On accasion I felt I ought to have a notebook, but I do have a terrible memory.  Despite these issues the book was, for me, a new approach to fantasy and I did really enjoy the book and found it truly 'engaging' to use a word from the publisher which I find to be very relevant.

The book starts as we meet Molly who is about to lose yet another job and the beadle in charge of the poorhouse where she lives is going to lose his temper over it. Sounds Victorian? It did to me at first but we rapidly learn to make no comparisons between this fantastic world and the world as we know or ancestors knew it. There is a revolution underway, although no one knows about it yet, and it will bring about a 'fairer' society. However the 'sponsors' of this revolution have their own agenda and it will be down to our heroes, amongst others, to save their world if they can.

TheMole's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher -
Genre - YA Fantasy

Buy The Court of the Air from Amazon

Monday 25 October 2010

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

Being Chosen isn't always a good thing.
review by Maryom

Kyra and her family are part of a repressive religious polygamist closed community where everyone's personal wishes come second to those of the Prophet and his Apostles. Their restrictions are becoming more severe, books are banned, no more trips into town, and anyone who disagrees is likely to be beaten up or disappear. Kyra has been sneaking round these rules - borrowing books from a mobile library van, meeting with one of the boys in secret but then she finds that she has been Chosen as the latest, 7th, wife of her 60 year old uncle and realises that she is running out of options.
I picked this up one afternoon and was so caught up in it, that I had to finish it that night. I was absolutely engrossed! The story is told in the first person through Kyra who takes this situation - 1 father, 3 mothers and 21 siblings - as normal, even when she feels that she doesn't quite fit in. When the prophet announces that Kyra is The Chosen One, the reader really shares her astonishment and disbelief and the helplessness of both Kyra and her family, caught in this world where no opposition or free thought is allowed and women and girls are treated as chattels to be disposed of by others. The plot was a little predictable for an adult reader with a vague knowledge of American religious cults who watched the TV series Big Love but an excellent read nonetheless.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Simon and Schuster

Genre -

Friday 22 October 2010

Shadow Bringer by David Calcutt

Something nasty in the attic.
review by Maryom

Nathan is staying with relatives while his Mum takes a break. Strange things are happening there - something is lurking in the attic, something is hiding in the gunk at the bottom of the pond, there are scuffling noises in the night and a voice inside his head.
In another world, Rasha is setting out on a spirit journey to hunt down an evil creature before it escapes into the real world. Will she be in time?

A true spine-chiller of a book from David Calcutt, with the lurking, menacing creature there from page one. "I'm coming to get you", it says at the end of the first short chapter and this sets the tone for the book. Nathan and the reader with him hover between believing a creature really is there calling to him and thinking it's only his imagination playing tricks - whichever, I found myself willing him to not open the attic door or go back to the pond, to not disturb or provoke whatever evil thing was waiting.
The way real world and the ghostly spirit one are woven together in Shadow Bringer reminded me of the Alan Garner books I read as a child. If you loved those, even if trembling with fear as you read, or are looking for a scary story for Halloween, go buy this for your children.

Shadow Bringer was reviewed by The Mole

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Oxford University Press

Genre -
children's, fantasy
Seem to have a bit of debate over suitable age bracket for this. Obviously it depends on how easily your child is frightened and how much you want a quiet night's sleep, but I would have said 10 -12, though children either side of that group would probably still enjoy it.

Shadow Bringer can be purchased from Amazon

Wednesday 20 October 2010

7 Day Low Fat Low Salt Diet Plan by Carolyn Humphries

An unusual sort of book for us to review - but I found it cheap - very cheap- in a sale at The Works and due to Hubby being on a VERY low fat diet I'm always on the lookout for new ideas.
It's mainly aimed at low fat replacements for family favourites - Spaghetti Bolognese, Scotch Lamb Stew, even Baked Fish and Chips - but with some slightly unusual ones - Vitality Moussaka or Ratatouille Summer Pudding. There's everything from breakfast ideas to planning your meals for the week and even low fat cakes, biscuits and deserts.
I found some slight drawbacks to this book - it's a 1999 edition and I think some of the advice on the nature of fats may have changed since then - for instance there is no mention of trans-fatty acids anywhere. There are no photos of any prepared dishes. A far bigger problem, though, to the novice low fat cook is that although all the recipes are calorie counted, there's no figure for the fat or salt content. Since this book was published this kind of information is generally given in books and magazines and on food packaging. It's probably more useful for someone looking to just modify their diet in the general direction of lowering fat and salt than for someone cutting back severely due to health problems.

It's not, to be honest, the best cookbook I've got and it's certainly not the glossy coffee table sort that are gorgeous to look at and read even if you never cook anything from them, but it is a practical guide to low fat, low salt cooking.

Maryom's review - 3 stars
Publisher - Foulsham

Genre - Non-fiction, Cookery

Buy 7-day Low Fat, Low-salt Diet Plan from Amazon

The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

I read this book for Nayu's Reading Corner and THOROUGHLY enjoyed it!

Monday 18 October 2010

Mrs Ames by EF Benson

Desperate Housewives - 1912 style
review by Maryom

Mrs Ames is queen of her social circle until a new resident arrives and charms first her son and then her husband. Desperate measures are called for - but, when she turns from changing her appearance to trying to change society, will Mrs Ames' efforts to re-attract her husband actually end up sending him straight into the arms of her rival?
First published in 1912, this is a gentle comedy of small town life, its gossip and power struggles - falling somewhere between Cranford and Desperate Housewives.
An enjoyable, entertaining and timeless tale. The concerns and attitudes of the ladies of Riseborough differ surprisingly little from those of the ladies of Wisteria Lane - Mrs Evans flutters her eyelashes and charms the men with her helpless little woman act, Mrs Ames resorts to hair dye and wrinkle reducing creams in her efforts to fight back and the supporting characters of Mr and Mrs Altham provide a comic chorus to events.
Less acerbic wit and backbiting than in Mapp and Lucia, but still an excellent gentle comedy.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Bloomsbury Publishing

Genre - Chick lit, humour

Thursday 14 October 2010

More on Seren's Mabinogion Series

Following on from Maryom's review of White Ravens we have heard of this event. It should be a good evening for all Mabinogion fans.


Mabinogion Series Launch - St Davids Hotel, Cardiff - Thursday October 28th, 7pm

An evening to launch Seren's Mabinogion Series Thursday October 28th, 7pm.

This is an unique opportunity to hear Owen Sheers, Russell Celyn Jones, Niall Griffiths and Gwyneth Lewis discussing their own take on the Mabinogion. In the prestigious settings of the St David's Hotel, the audience will have the opportunity for Q&A and the chance to get all four books signed by the authors.

Part of BayLit organised by Academi. Tickets £10 (Early booking is recommended to avoid disappointment)

Ticket Line 02920 472 266

Owen Sheers White Ravens

Russell Celyn Jones The Ninth Wave

Niall Griffiths The Dreams of Max and Ronnie

Gwynwth Lewis The Meat Tree

For more information on BayLit Shock of the New contact Academi: 02920 472 266 /

Wednesday 13 October 2010

White Ravens by Owen Sheers

Re-imagining Myth
review by Maryom

Owen Sheers brings a contemporary twist to the ancient Welsh tale of Branwen, daughter of Llyr with two different, but entwined, stories, one set in the present day, one during WW2.
Rhian and her two brothers live on a remote Welsh hill farm, the family's home for generations, but following an outbreak of foot and mouth the brothers decide to set up in a different line of business - one they feel is less effort and more lucrative.
Matthew O'Connell is sent on a secret wartime mission to bring 6 raven chicks from a remote Welsh farm to the Tower of London but is unwittingly bringing tragedy with him.

This book is part of a series from Seren Books - New Stories from the Mabinogion - though there's no need for any prior knowledge of Welsh myth to enjoy this story- it's gripping enough and perfectly capable of being read as a stand alone story.
I was drawn in by Sheers' storytelling skills, his ability to tell part of the tale from a woman's perspective, to give Rhian a voice and let her speak. White Ravens is very much a story set in the real, everyday world, not a magical, fantasy tale but, in the way of myth, the characters are drawn powerlessly along towards their inescapable fate. Although this is a story about men torn apart by violence and bloodshed, of men who release their torment and rage on the people and animals around them, it also offers the possibility of ending the vicious circle they find themselves caught in.

Warning - there is a certain level of violence against animals in this book that some readers may find distressing.

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Seren Books

Genre - Adult Literary Fiction

Buy White Ravens (New Stories from the Mabinogion) from Amazon

Monday 11 October 2010

Fate and Fortune by Shirley McKay

Old Murder
review by TheMole

In the second of the Hew Cullan novels he returns home from France to find his father dead and the funeral about to take place. Hew has now inherited much property and it's a situation he's not comfortable with. He sets out to pursue areas of his estate and finds himself robbed and jailed and ends up as an apprentice.

A tale of romance, murder and violence. With a twist at every turn of the plot this is a story that may have you guessing right to the end.

It is often the case that stories set in historical times continue to use modern day English, but Shirley McKay uses historical terms in such a way that the reader understands most every word but can feel the history in the story. This approach means the reader does not expect the hero to pull out a digital watch or tri-corder and brings the characters and scenes to life. I say 'most every word' because I am still unsure of the modern equivalent of 'buith' or 'crame'.

The violence and murder is not graphic so if, like me, you are a little squeamish you need not be concerned - have a read. Miss Marple of the sixteenth century.

Recommended for lovers of Historical Crime Fiction. Read and enjoy.

TheMole's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Polygon

Genre - Adult Historical Crime

Buy Fate and Fortune by Shirley McKay from AMAZON

Friday 8 October 2010

Tithe by Holly Black

A Dark Faery Tale
review by Maryom

Kaye has always seen faeries and had the ability to make strange things happen - like bringing an old carousel horse to life - but when she saves the life of a strange, handsome, young man she finds herself dragged into the power struggles of a dark, perverse faery land.

I picked up Tithe on the recommendation of my daughter - you know children are growing up when they say 'Read this book - it's good' and you find it is - not merely at a child's level. A book about faeries but, as my daughter says, "not the soft sweet sort that sing you to sleep" - these faeries are self-centred and cruel, treating humans as toys and playthings.
It's peopled with a totally believable cast of characters from Kaye's drunken wannabe rock star mother to the mean, manipulative Faery Queen and set against a modern day backdrop where trailer park merges into Faeryland.
Although aimed at teenagers and YA, it's a wonderful book for any lover of fantasy fiction.

Read my daughter's review of the sequel, Ironside, on her blog.

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Simon & Schuster

Genre - YA Fantasy

Buy Tithe from Amazon

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Beside The Sea by Veronique Olmi

The Dark Side of Motherhood
review by Maryom

A single mother sets out on a trip to the seaside with her 2 young sons, determined that for once they will have some fun, see the sea and visit the fairground like 'normal people'. But it's not the jolly kind of jaunt you might suppose, she has a hidden agenda born of her obsessive love and her fear of letting go of her children.

This is another short, wonderful, thought-provoking book from Peirene Press, translated from its original French by Adriana Hunter - a tale of motherhood at its most protective.
It opens with the family leaving, almost sneaking out of, their home to set out on their journey to the seaside. The boys aren't happy or excited about this trip, but worried. If they'd had any expectations of fun, they are soon dashed - the beach is cold, wet and windswept, the hotel dingy and brown - but above all is the obsessional love of their mother, holding them back, and the feeling of impending doom which drags the reader in. It's a book that will grab you - make you fall into this young woman's depression and yet want to say 'Whatever you're planning to do, don't do it! There is another way'.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Peirene Press

Genre - Adult Literary Fiction

Other reviews: Tony's Reading List

Monday 4 October 2010

Girl 16 Five Star Fiasco by Sue Limb

Dance anyone?
Review by TheMole

Jess and her boyfriend, Fred, have organized a dinner dance in aid of charity. Well, they are supposed to have organized, but so far they have done posters and tickets. The tickets are sold out but nothing has been arranged. Both of them are thinking there is plenty of time but the clock is ticking and it's time to start taking responsibility.

I found this story to be tremendous fun and I really got to know Jess and Fred. Without giving any spoilers I might also say I loved the ending, which is a bit atypical of other teenage chic lit in that the ending is not a lovey-dovey happy ending, but a real message to the reader.

I would certainly recommend it for young readers in search of something easy to read and light. Beautiful.

TheMole's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Bloomsbury

Genre - Teenage chic-lit

Buy Girl, 16: Five-Star Fiasco (Girl, 15) from Amazon

Friday 1 October 2010

The Nostradamus Prophecies by Mario Reading

Action-packed adventure
review by Maryom

Most people have heard of Nostradamus and his prophecies. But did you know that he wrote a thousand and only 942 have survived? This thriller is built around the question 'What happened to the other 58?' Babel Samana, a French gypsy, believes he can sell information regarding their whereabouts and has lined up two possibly interested parties - Adam Sabir, a writer trying to boost his career with a major bestseller, and Achor Bale, a member of a mysterious secret society, who is prepared to go to any lengths - including torture and murder - to get his hands on this information. Samana's scheme doesn't go to plan and Sabir finds himself with Samana's sister fleeing across France, trying to evade the police while trying to locate the missing prophecies.

This was brought to my attention by someone praising it on Facebook, so I went to the library to order it - only to find it was labelled in the system as non-fiction. Mario Reading is an expert on Nostradamus and his prophecies, and has written non-fiction books on the subject but don't confuse this with them. This is a quickly paced, action adventure and most definitely fiction, though I did wonder how much of himself Reading saw in his hero, Sabir. Has he ever been approached by gypsies trying to sell a secret?
A good holiday read or one for the many wet winter evenings on the way. If you liked Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, you'll love this. (I preferred this!)

Maryom's review - 3.5 stars
Publisher - Atlantic Books

Genre - Adult Thriller

Buy The Nostradamus Prophecies from Amazon