Tuesday 26 April 2011

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

Truly Remarkable
Review by The Mole

Onestate is a city made entirely from glass and enclosed by a wall of glass to keep out the chaos of the wild planet. Arising after 200 years of war, the totalitarian state citizens have no crime, no passion and only one 'right', that of punishment. A place where duty and regimented routine come first is a 'happy' place where freedom and liberty are seen as criminal activities. Each citizen is a Number and the individual has no importance. A place where when carelessness causes death then work goes on uninterrupted and people laugh at stupidity of the accident.

D-503 is a model citizen except he is an exceptional mathematician and the builder of the INTEGRAL - a space ship that is to go out and force Onestate's will and control over the other civilisations of the universe. Model citizen that is until he meets I-330 and falls madly in love with her. Madly enough to jeopardize his sanity and his model behaviour as he submits to I-330's will.

As a citizen of Onestate D-503's life was reliable and predictable but now it is deteriorating and as the story is written in the first person, as a series of notes to go with INTEGRAL to tell the newly controlled planets about Onestate, we see and feel the chaos set in. This is done in a way that involves the reader and frustrates them as well when we come across unexplained statements as random thoughts and actions creep in.

This book was written in 1920-21 and was translated from the original Russian by Clarence Brown. Originally banned in Russia it was finally published there in 1988.

As an early Sci-Fi story this has set the mould and the model for many stories that followed in some cases as close as a few years later and in other cases stories, films and TV series are still using the ideas. One thing that tends to change though is authors today seem to have the subjects of such states believing themselves to free rather than seeing freedom as undesirable. In my teens I read "The Dome" by an author of the name Jones and this introduced me to Sci-Fi and as such influenced a lot of my reading, but I now find that it is very close to the plot of We in many ways. Although, since reading The Dome, I classify myself as a Sci-Fi reader, I have never read Brave New World or 1984 and this is something I must now address as people draw parallels there too.

This was an extremely good and impressive read it has got to be a must for sci-fi enthusiasts everywhere. In fact even if you are only mildly interested in sci-fi then consider it a must.

Publisher - Penguin Classics
Genre - Sci-Fi

Buy We (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) from Amazon

Monday 18 April 2011

White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick - audio book

Truly Spooky Gothic Thriller
review by Maryom

Rebecca has gone to stay in Winterfold for the summer. Although quiet and peaceful now, very strange things have happened there in the past. Left pretty much on her own by her father, she encounters an odd local girl, Ferelith with an obsession about proving that there is life after death. Despite her better judgement, Rebecca finds her self drawn in to Ferelith's dangerous games.

This is actually the first time I've listened to an audio book. I find it difficult to focus and pay attention to merely spoken things and I'd always thought I might be inclined to drift off and not listen (I do this to music!) I'd heard of people listening to audio books while driving or ironing so I found something to keep my hands busy and my eyes occupied and put the CD on.
Whether it was due to listening rather than reading, I don't know but I would say this is one of the scariest books I've 'read' in a long while. Listening, of course, stops you from jumping quickly to the bottom of the page or to the next one to see what will happen and backing noises also add Linkto the tension as you listen but this is certainly a spine-tingling, hair on end spooky thriller. The flashbacks to what happened in the village in 1798 help build up the tension towards a horrifying climax that had me totally gripped. If you like having your blood curdled, give this a 'read'.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Orion

Genre - 12+, supernatural thriller

Buy White Crow from Amazon

Sunday 17 April 2011


Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson

Usually I only blog about books I've read but I thought I'd give a mention to these 'tasters' I've received.
They're for a novel out later this month - Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson - and presumably are parts of the first chapter. Christine wakes one morning in what she believes to be a stranger's bed, but it isn't. She is at home, in her own bed, the man beside her is her husband Ben but she remembers none of it. She, and the reader, slowly realise that she has no memory of the last 18 years.
If you've seen 50 First Dates you'll understand the scenario - everything up to an accident is remembered, everything since it totally forgotten. Husband Ben has a scrapbook full of photographs and memorabilia to help fill the long gap, but something doesn't feel quite right. Mid-morning, while Ben is at work, a man phones claiming to be a doctor helping Christine regain some of her memory but, for some reason, this is being kept secret from her husband.
This book is published 28th April and I, for one, NEED to track it down and read it!

Friday 15 April 2011

Remote Control by E M Higgins

Never judge a book by it's cover.
Review by The Mole

During the cold war the two great super powers used any means possible to try to spy on the activities of each other. One such exercise tried was ESP (extra sensory perception), the ability to see what others are thinking. David Morehouse wrote a book on this subject and when Ms Higgins read it she was inspired to write a novel about how it could be used and abused. Whether or not I believe any part of "remote viewing" is unimportant, but I do believe that "Remote Control" is a good and thought provoking book. Whether you believe in it or not just try suspending disbelief while you read the book and reflect on what could, and may well, happen if it actually came to be viable.

When I showed the cover to my 13 year old and asked her what she thought the book would be about she replied that it was a BT advert. Neither the title nor the cover 'get hold' of me and ask me to read it and that is a shame because it is very well worth reading. The book is published by Olympia, about whom there is a lot of talk on the web concerning the type of publisher they are, and I feel the book lacks a small amount of editorial polish that other publishers would have been able to add. But don't let these minor points put you off - this is a book that will provoke tension, give you many things to think about and leave you wondering "What if?". I will try to avoid clichés but it is compelling and a bit of a roller coaster anyway.

Lynn is a nurse and someone is out to kill her. Or so she believes - is it real or just paranoia? We are taken on a journey of fear, loyalty, love and callous murders before the end of the book.

Publisher: Olympia Publishers
Genre: Science Fiction Thriller

Buy Remote Control from Amazon

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Please Look After Mother by Kyung-Sook Shin

Remember Mother
review by Maryom

So-nyo travels with her husband from the Korean countryside to visit their children in Seoul. In the packed station they become separated - instead of stepping on to the train behind her husband, she is pushed aside by the crowd and he doesn't realise she's gone until the train is moving away. Although he gets off at the first stop and returns to the platform, his wife is no where to be seen.

Please Look After Mother follows the family's desperate search for, and reminiscences about, their missing mother who for so long they have taken for granted, never realising the many sacrifices she made for them.

It's an interesting exploration of how many children, even when grown up themselves, take their mothers for granted, seeing them only as 'mother' not as a person in their own right and of how the roles of parent and child swap over in parents old age.

An awkward book to review insofar as I think a lot of people will find it deeply moving, tear jerking.. but I didn't. The family desperately rack their brains over what to do, where to look, over the things that Mother meant to them ... but it didn't move me.There were some things in particular that I took objection to - particularly the concept that now Mother was missing, her elder daughter was suddenly going to follow her wishes and get married.
Part of my interest in reading this was the fact that it's foreign - as part of my Round The World reading challenge. I was a bit disappointed in that I didn't get a real feel for Korea as I read - perhaps the focus of the book is on people's feelings rather than their surroundings but Seoul seemed like any other city and despite the growing of exotic (to us) vegetables the countryside could have been anywhere.
Overall an engaging but slightly predictable read.

Maryom's review - 3 stars
Publisher - Orion

Genre - adult, literary fiction

Buy Please Look After Mother from Amazon

Other reviews; Winstonsdad's Blog

Friday 8 April 2011

Smokeheads by Doug Johnstone

Deliverance with a Scottish Twist
review by Maryom

"Four friends. One Weekend. Gallons of whisky. What could go wrong?" - well, just about everything it seems.

4 late-thirties, ex-university friends with a serious passion for malt whisky set off to Islay for a weekend of sampling the products from the island's many distilleries. Within minutes of leaving the ferry terminal they, or more specifically the loud-mouthed Roddy, get on the wrong side of the local police and from there everything goes downhill - rapidly! Instead of the jolly weekend they'd planned, arguments lead to an accident, the accident leads to them falling into the sort of nightmare scenario usually reserved for Hollywood movies - think of Deliverance with a Scottish twist. Will anyone survive to tell the tale?

Not everyone is going to take to these four whisky nerds or sympathise much when they land in trouble, but it's a fast paced, action-packed, roller-coaster-ride thriller which I found to be quite enjoyable, though you might be forgiven for thinking it's a "man's" book. There's not a lot of deep characterisation unless the characters are talking about the subtleties of malt whisky and then they could go on for ever! It's VERY violent and full of strong language, drug and alcohol abuse but bizarrely I find myself thinking of it as a lighthearted, enjoyable little book - perhaps I'm perverse.

I'd just like to add that I've been to Islay - and it was nothing like this!

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Faber and Faber

Genre - action thriller

Buy Smokeheads from Amazon

Other reviews; I Meant To Read That

Thursday 7 April 2011

Opposite of Amber

So, What is the Opposite of Amber?
review by Maryom

Jinn has always been like a mother to her younger sister Ruby, especially after their mother died. Her sparkling presence fills their house and garden with light, life and colour. Ruby was always the quiet one who never spoke up. Then everything changes - when a friend jumps off the leisure centre roof, Ruby feels her careless words may have pushed him to it but Jinn suddenly has no time to listen. 'Bad boy' Nathan Baird has returned to town and Jinn is swept away by him. Ruby finds she quickly has to come to terms with no longer being the centre of her sister's world and with the things that Jinn is prepared to do to help someone else. Set against a backdrop of serial killer on the loose, this is a moving and sometimes distressing look at the bond and interdependence between sisters.

I've literally just finished reading this and I'm still feeling rather stunned, gob-smacked, by the ending - or not really the ending so much as the build up to it. I took a while to get into the swing of this book, for some strange reason it wasn't quite what I was expecting - I think maybe because the back cover blurb makes a lot of the relationship between the sisters and of the murders happening around town but nothing of Ruby's agonising over Alex's suicide attempt - but after that I was completely hooked.

The Opposite of Amber is a very very different book to Gillian Philip's last, Firebrand, but an equally compelling page-turner. "Coming of age novel" is a somewhat over-used phrase but I find it difficult to describe this any other way. Ruby has always been overprotected, over mothered by Jinn, then, at this point when she needs someone to turn to, finds Jinn has other priorities and that their roles are even reversed, and Ruby must look after Jinn.
While the story is told through Ruby's eyes, I felt as reader I could sit back just a little further and feel sorry for Jinn and Nathan, so obviously deeply in love with each other but with so many things going against them.

Compelling, frightening, occasionally funny, a book to remember long after the last page. As for the title which had me puzzling - what IS the opposite of amber? red or green as on traffic lights? - you'll have to read it to find out!

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Bloomsbury

Genre - YA

Buy The Opposite of Amber from Amazon

Tuesday 5 April 2011

The Monstrumologist: Curse Of The Wendigo by Rick Yancey

Review by The Mole

I read this and reviewed it for Nayu's Reading Corner and was chilled like no other book I have read.

Friday 1 April 2011

The Fearsome Beastie by Giles Paley-Phillips

With Illustrations by Gabrielle Antonini
Good Old Gran!
review by The Mole

When you get a book suitable for 'shared reading' - that is where you sit by the child as you read and actions and sounds are made by one or both - they are frequently more about the pictures than the words. True classics of this genre are the ones where the words do most of the work and the pictures become the support act. I can name but a few that I would call true classics - and can still (8-10 years later) recite some of them. This book deserves to become one of those classics. Don't misunderstand though the pictures are beautiful and action provoking in their own way, but the poetry in this book is extremely 'catchy'. It has a rhythm that scans well throughout. The story line is not over simplified but is also not over complex and not only makes an excellent shared reader but the choice of font makes it ideal as well for an early reader book.

The subject matter is the beastie in the dark that children tend to get worked up at. I don't think I am giving too much away if I say that Gran saves the day... Don't they always? That's why we love them.

My only regret with this book is that at 13 my daughter doesn't want picture books at bedtime any more!

In coupling these poems with this illustrator then this book has really become a wonderful book.

Publisher - Maverick Books
Genre - Childrens 5+

Buy The Fearsome Beastie from Amazon