Monday 30 April 2012

Everything's Fine by Socrates Adams

Thoughtful, Funny, Tragedy
Review by The Mole

Ian works in sales. Unfortunately Ian is not very good at sales. Ian is not very good at knowing how bad he is at sales. Ian does, however, think he does everything in the best way possible and so is convinced he is good at everything. His sales director has a review of Ian's performance and chooses to humiliate and shame Ian into improving.

I had read that this book is funny. I want to take time to explain how I found it. At first I found it tragic. In my years I have dealt with salesmen and seen how some disdain targets. I have seen sales directors tear their hair out trying to get salesmen to try to take targets seriously. I have heard of sales directors trying to humiliate salesmen into improving their results.

Similarly I have seen employees who think they are the best at their jobs and won't be counselled otherwise in order to improve. Worse, to my discredit, I have employed them! Ian is the office nightmare and I felt I knew him.

However Adams keeps taking him and his sales director one further step towards the precipice and away from reality and so it becomes more and more fun as the story progresses. Is there hope for Ian? Will the worm turn? Will the worm take a totally different direction?

This book is a great deal of fun and, while it is not 'laugh out loud' it is funny, tragic and most of all thought provoking and deeper than you realise. I did REALLY, REALLY enjoy this book in a happy, tragic, thoughtful way.

Publisher - Transmission Print
Genre - Adult Humorous Fiction

Buy Everything's Fine from Amazon

Friday 27 April 2012

Iain Banks Reading from Stonemouth

By The Mole

When we heard that Iain Banks was coming to Nottingham Waterstones we decided we would go. I duly phoned for tickets and they had just 2 left. Big Sad Face - we wanted 3 so I wimped and pouted and bought the 2 and she took my phone number and said she would speak to the events manager.

Next day my phone rang - it doesn't do a lot of that and it was a number I didn't recognise. It was the events manager! He explained that he had set a maximum but was sure he could squeeze one more in so everyone was happy. The alternative might have been to camp outside on the windowsill with my ear to the window! A big Thank You to Waterstones.

Iain said he would start the evening by reading from the beginning of Stonemouth explaining, in a very amusing way, the benefit of starting from the beginning - he then started reading from page 196!. I am not the 'first' fan of Iain Banks in our house with that honour going to Maryom (she named 'The Crow Road" as her Top Scottish read when asked by The City of Edinburgh) but none the less I determined that this is one book I intend to read. I have read The Crow Road and The Bridge (hasn't everyone?) and thoroughly enjoyed them. It always has been my intention to read some more of them and last night re-awoke that for me.

The questions were the kind that he must have been asked a thousand times before "Which book is your favourite?", "Why do you write the two different styles, 'mainstream' and 'sci-fi'?", "Which is your least favourite?", "How and when do you write?" but his answers felt new and just for us. The humour was consistently there and although there was a little swearing it was in context and he explained that there was only one book he had written without swearing in (to please his Mum) and it wasn't his biggest seller. We had taken our 14 year old and I'm sure she hears worse in breaks at school.

Afterwards there was the inevitable book signing and I left Maryom three quarters of the way round the room (almost three quarters of the way down the queue! - Yes the queue went round all four walls) and I went to buy a copy of Stonemouth. While at the till I also managed to get one of the World Book Nights copies of The Player of Games. Maryom  took along her Iain Banks books and he kindly signed them all - including the WBN copy!

Thursday 26 April 2012

Blackmoor by Edward Hogan

 Review by Maryom

Blackmoor was a Derbyshire pit village until economics forced the closure of the mine and the resultant gas build-up in abandoned workings forced the demolition of a community - the people were moved out and buildings flattened.
 Teenager Vincent has grown up in the suburb village of Church Eaton, never knowing Blackmoor the place where he was born or his mother Beth who died there.  Vincent is a strange solitary boy not fitting in with schoolmates; his father George an over-protective parent with a not-too-hidden aggressive streak. Both have been shaped and changed by the events leading up to Beth's death - when Vincent starts a school project about the demolition of Blackmoor , he never expects to unearth things about his own past

Blackmoor was Edward Hogan's debut novel and although I enjoyed it, it feels less accomplished and polished than his second, The Hunger Trace. I don't want to give the impression, though, that this is a dull, badly written  book - far from it! Blackmoor is an absorbing exploration of things hidden below the surface of life - neither coal mines nor buried family history can be simply ignored and walked away from. Hogan takes the three strands of Beth's life, her son's and the mining village she lived in and weaves them intricately together.

 I come more or less from the area the novel is set in and loved Hogan's capturing of local dialect and landmarks -as I read, I could imagine myself following the characters' footsteps, seeing the sights they saw etc

One criticism I would make is about the cover illustration - it gives the distinct impression that this is a novel set in the past - early 20th century or maybe Victorian era - whereas it's actually set 'now' and in the not so distant past of 1980s.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Simon & Schuster
Genre - Adult literary fiction
Buy Blackmoor from Amazon

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Liberator's Ruin by P J Johns

Definitely NOT Star Wars
Review by The Mole

In a world at war, three people hold the fate of an entire country in their hands.

Nathaniel An’Rieyr is the captain of the airship Storm Brother and profiteer extraordinaire. He dreams of making his fortune in the lucrative southern trade routes. But to achieve that, he will need to get involved in a war he has made a career of avoiding.

As the last surviving member of the Illysian Royal Family, the war is all Anna has left. The Rhivellian Empire took her family, her throne and her country. Unable to compete against the might of the Rhivellian war machine, Anna enacts a plan to retrieve a mighty artefact from a long forgotten Age. With it, she will finally have the power to reclaim her kingdom; a goal for which she will sacrifice anyone, even her closest ally.

Thomas Ras’Kar, High Inquisitor of the Rhivellian Empire, has been sent to Illum in disgrace, where he will be forced to contend with the incompetent Thane Charles. Three years of occupation has seen the city’s populace cowed and the Thane’s interest turned to his own pleasures. A fate worse than death for a man of honour and action such as Thomas. But the Princess is returning to Illum, and she may be the key to his redemption.

When I started to read this book - one of the last e-books we agreed to review I would stress - my immediate impression was 'Star Wars'. But because I was deep in several other books at the time I put it to one side and it had to wait - being an e-book an' all. And wait. And it waited 9 months until we went away and I thought I would take it with us. It wasn't long before the Star Wars impression melted into the background and was replaced by a feeling that perhaps the motivations of the characters, that bore that resemblance, were being portrayed more realistically than the fairy tale. In fact the reality of their motivations makes this adult reading. Yes, there is a non-gratuitous sex scene and I'm afraid it's not of literary quality, but it is important that it's in there.

I quickly came across a lot of poor editing which was also mentioned in reviews on Amazon. I have encountered this with a few self published books and always try to raise it with the author. I have not known an author take this badly and Johns had already taken this on board in producing a better copy which he forwarded. From then on the edit was MUCH improved and am happy to put aside the early edits. (I did check a few to make sure they had been picked up - there were a few howlers.)

In reviews on Amazon some people expressed disappointment with the end... well I want to go on record and say I loved it! The ending brought real justice as I saw it and I would not want to see it changed at all!

I was trying to explain the plot to my wife who replied "Oh, Star Wars as it SHOULD have been written?". Well maybe. But I did thoroughly enjoy this book and would recommend it to lovers of science fantasy. I read it using the world's worst method of e-reading, yet I looked forward to picking it up again and again.

Publisher - Self published
Genre - Adult Science Fantasy

Buy Liberator's Ruin from Amazon's Kindle store

Tuesday 24 April 2012

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

Wisteria and Sunshine - who could resist?
review by Maryom

Enticed by the promise of wisteria and sunshine, four ladies leave cold, wet London for a month at the castle of San Salvatore in Italy. They each have something that in their individual ways, they're running away from. Both Lottie and Rose are trapped in unhappy marriages; Mrs Fisher believes that nothing is quite as it was in 'the good old days' and Lady Caroline is trying to escape the hectic rounds and demands of Society. In the glorious, almost heavenly, surroundings of San Salvatore they 'find themselves' - for want of a better expression.

This is an oldish favourite of mine that I originally discovered through the 1992 film, starring Miranda Richardson and Josie Lawrence, and that I was prompted into re-reading  by a blog post at Iris on Books about another of von Arnim's novels,  The Solitary Summer
A lot of readers might dismiss it as lacking in action or too touchy-feely for their liking, but The Enchanted April is a book that never fails to work its magic on me. Starting in a dark, damp London February and moving to the heat and light of an Italian April, this is the perfect novel for Spring reading. The reader, too, can leave behind doom, gloom and persistent rain and bask in glorious sunshine.
Something more that appeals to me, as a gardener, is the gorgeous, luxuriant garden surrounding the castle where Spring and Summer flowers all bloom together in a mad rush, cascading down the hillside - one day I'll have one just like it!

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Virago
Genre - Adult Fiction, Literary

Other reviews; Dusty Old Books 
                       The Worm Hole

Monday 23 April 2012

Chipping Norton Literary Festival #chiplitfest

In it's first year Chipping Norton Literary Festival is finding it's feet. Some of the events proved more popular than expected and had to be moved to larger venues so it would seem some level of success must be celebrated.

We went on the Saturday, and had a look around and took in a couple of events.

Overall and despite the attempts by the weather we enjoyed it and wish them every success in the future.

Maryom attended a couple of events which she talks a about on her blog, and The Mole took in other aspects which he shares on his blog.

Friday 20 April 2012

The Alchemist and the Angel by Joanne Owen

Bringing the dead back to life
Review by The Mole

Jan is orphaned and living with his Aunt and Uncle. His Uncle decides to take Jan on as an apprentice alchemist and his training is going well when his Uncle dies suddenly. His Aunt then decides to move to Prague so Jan goes with her believing her to be a sincere benefactor. He meets Zuzana, a young girl who helps among the plague victims of the ghettos and she carries secrets with her.

Jan is a trusting youth who fails to see the bad in those who he feels love him. Unfortunately the trust he places in others is not always well placed.

While there is a small amount of love interest it is such a small part of the story it mustn't dissuade readers as the story is sure to entrance and delight the younger readers as Jan sets out to find a cure for the plague - the killer of his own parents. His intentions are totally altruistic while innocent and naive. I have to admit to wanting to shake Jan and say "look behind you" on several occasions and I'm sure younger readers will too.  This I feel will pull them in and engage them in this story.

The story is peppered with myths and legends told incidentally by characters within the plot, but published separately on illuminations made to look like ancient parchment making it very easy for the reader to remember that they have 'stepped outside' the story for a while.

Peppered with real historical figures this is a really nice story with magic and alchemy set in sixteenth century Prague and Vienna. for readers who are around 10+.

Publisher - Orion Books
Genre - Children's Historical/Fantasy Fiction

Buy The Alchemist and the Angel from Amazon

Thursday 19 April 2012

At Yellow Lake By Jane McLoughlin

review by Maryom
Three teenagers find themselves at the remote Yellow Lake but instead of being able to soak up the natural beauty, find themselves locked in a struggle for their lives.
Jonah has gone to Yellow Lake looking for solitude, to camp out and re-discover his Native-American roots. Into the peace and quiet come Peter, fulfilling his mother's last request to bury a lock of her hair on the beach by their cabin, and Etta, trying to escape from her mother's sleazy boyfriend Kyle. The three strike up an uneasy alliance which is tested when Kyle and his gang arrive at the same spot with criminal intentions.

Although the story starts rather slowly with the characters' backstories and setting the scene, the tension soon increases once everyone is assembled at the lake. OK, there's a lot of coincidence with everyone being in the same spot at the same time - but after all this is the way of so many thrillers. The author takes the reader inside the three main characters, alternating between their points of view, showing us the changing dynamics of the threesome as they get to know each other and move between cautiousness and jealously to trust.
An excellent thriller read for teens who prefer their fiction set in the real world.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Frances Lincoln
Genre - Fiction, Teen, Thriller

Buy At Yellow Lake from Amazon

You may also enjoy this, which is a similar style thriller The Truth About Celia Frost

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Body Blow by Peter Cocks

review by Maryom

Eddie Savage has done his bit to help put Tommy Kelly, the man responsible for his brother's death, in jail. He's now recovering from his injuries but finding the emotional trauma harder to cope with. With new best mate, Gav, an ex-soldier he meets at a therapy session, Eddie heads off to Spain for a bit of fun - but soon finds his naiveté lands him in trouble. The only way out of it is to go back to his old undercover job - this time among the drug dealers of the Costa del Sol.

I've been waiting nearly a year for this book - ever since I read the first Eddie Savage thriller, Long Reach - and I'm glad to say it didn't disappoint me. There's a slightly more glamorous location this time - the seedier side of Spain though, of flash cars and drug-dealers, not the luxury James Bond end of the espionage market.
Eddie is his old charming self - with a new identity, new girl and a sporty car. There are more devious bad guys, led by Tommy Kelly's brother, Patsy, looking to take over the family crime-business, and the return of an old one, Donnie Mulvaney, looking for a quiet retirement in the sun till his old pals catch up with him. Things are hotting up in this area of sunny Spain!

As you'd expect from a thriller, Body Blow is action-packed, quickly paced and compelling with many, many nail-biting, quake-in-your-shoes moments, a fair bit of violence and comic Bond-style one-liners. I'd recommend this to anyone who loves thrillers, whatever their age!

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Walker Books

Genre - YA crime, thriller

Our meeting with Peter Cox at Hay Festival
Maryom's review of Long Reach

Buy Body Blow (Eddie Savage Thriller) from Amazon

The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman

review by Maryom

Tom Sherbourne is the lighthouse keeper on remote Janus Rock, situated nearly a hundred miles off the Australian coast between the Indian and Great Southern oceans. He and his wife Isabel live there in isolation apart from the occasional visits of the supply boat. After the horrors of the first world war, Tom has found a perfect spot to heal his mental scars. The only shadow in their life is their childlessness.
When a small boat is washed ashore Isabel believes her prayers have been answered - for in the boat, alongside a dead man, is a baby. After a series of miscarriages, she is desperate for a child and sees this as her chance to become a mother.
After some doubts, Tom is persuaded to not report the finding of the boat and the couple bring the child up as their own, naming her Lucy, after the light that governs their lives. It's only on a rare visit to the mainland that they realise that Lucy's natural mother is still hoping that her daughter, actually called Grace, will be found one day. The couple return to the refuge of Janus Rock with Lucy but Tom's doubts about whether Lucy belongs with them are increasing and life is never settled again.

The Light Between Oceans is a wonderfully atmospheric and engrossing tug-of-love story that manages to pull the reader's heart strings without becoming sentimental or 'soppy'. The descriptions of Janus Rock bring it to life so vividly that it seems possible to feel the sea-breeze and constantly changing ocean, though at the same time it mirrors Tom and Isabel's moral situation - isolated but not totally free from the world.

The characters tie themselves into such a knot that it's impossible to see a way out for them. I was torn first one way then another in trying to decide where and with whom Lucy/Grace belonged - sometimes veering in favour of Tom and Isabel, sometimes of her real mother. I was a bit afraid that the author would untangle it by some lazy 'happy ever after' twist - for the credibility of the story, I'm glad she didn't.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Doubleday
Genre - adult fiction

Buy The Light Between Oceans from Amazon

Monday 16 April 2012

The Detective and the Woman by Amy Thomas

Sherlock Holmes without Watson?
Review by The Mole

Holmes is believed dead after Reichenbach Falls but Mycroft knows where he is and alerts him to a plan that jeopardises the safety of Irene Adler. In this story Holmes works with Adler and they try to trust each other.

This story is interesting in a few ways: we meet Irene Adler as a 'friend' instead of adversary; half the story is told by Adler and the other half by an anonymous narrator; Watson is almost totally absent from the story and has not written the story up.

Using these devices we no longer need to be convinced that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would have written it this way, and frankly I am sure he wouldn't. But this technique means the author can use Holmes as a character without having to emulate Watson's style of writing - something that is not as simple as it seems.

The plot against Adler though seems very convoluted for what they were trying to achieve yet the story is told well. And although I enjoyed it I was disappointed with the ending which felt a lot more like a romantic novel than a Sherlock Holmes mystery.

Publisher - MX Publishing
Genre - Adult Crime Fiction

Buy The Detective and The Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes from Amazon

Friday 13 April 2012

Grandma Bendy by Izy Penguin

BAD Grandma
Review by The Mole

Everyone deserves a Grandma who is a little different and Grandma Bendy is certainly different! Her bendiness gives her the ability to do stuff - like enter people's houses when they aren't around, but after she is burgled herself she turns over a new leaf and finds that her abilities have more than one use.

The zany, madcap illustrations (and watch those mice please, they too have something to say) are wonderful and the story causes the reader to stop and think that maybe I should 'do as I would be done by'.

Another colourful and entertaining book for youngsters from Maverick Books, for the young reader or to be read and shared at bedtime.

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

Thursday 12 April 2012

Perfect Pies and Tarts by Moyra Fraser

review by Maryom

Perfect Pies and Tarts is one of a number of WI cookery books published by Simon & Schuster and contains over 50 recipes for sweet dessert pies, tarts, flans, traybakes etc etc. Suitable for everyone from the complete novice to the more experienced baker.

There are 8 basic pastry recipes included (or go for the easier option and use bought ready made pastry). I actually rather thought I knew all there was to know but was surprised to discover some new suggestions for pastry - a chocolate hazelnut crust and one incorporating creamed coconut.
The fillings cover, well, almost everything - from the traditional - lemon meringue, Bakewell tart or mince pies - to more unusual -panna cotta fig flans or chocolate and muscatel flan.

There are plenty of mouthwatering photos throughout to tempt you into baking - the difficulty might be deciding which to pick first.

I won this through a 'what's your favourite tart' competition on Twitter but my favourite isn't included. It's not really surprising though as it's a personal twist on Bakewell Pudding with (homemade) sloe and apple butter covered by a frangipane topping.

My only criticism is that there are no 'food values' given for the recipes - calorie count, amount of fat, fibre, salt etc. In a household where we have to be careful with fat intake, this kind of information is essential and I think all recipes should include it.

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Simon & Schuster
Genre - non-fiction, cookery, WI

Buy Perfect Pies & Tarts (Women's Institute) from Amazon

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Homecoming by Michael Morpurgo

Reminiscences of Childhood
Review by The Mole

In this tale a man returns to the village of his childhood and recollects a friendship he had with a quirky resident and her menagerie of pets and how this suffered when industrialisation moved into the village.

A rather sad and human tale of how industry tramples on the hopes and dreams of individuals while it promises a golden future for everyone - a dream rarely realised.

With beautiful pictures throughout the author invokes the sound of the seaside and I felt the hot sun on my back and could smell the salt in the air. A very atmospheric book that will have older readers remembering seaside holidays of their own childhood.

A book for the serious reader aged 7+.

Publisher - Walker Books 
Genre - Children 7+, Illustrated Story Book

Buy Homecoming from Amazon

Tuesday 10 April 2012

The Lollipop Shoes by Joanne Harris

review by Maryom

The sequel to Chocolat finds Vianne Rocher in hiding - well almost. With her two daughters, Annie and Rosette, she's seeking anonymity in the crowded streets of Paris, trying to live a dull, drab, unnoticeable as possible life - all a far cry from the days of the chocolaterie in Lansquenet. Until, that is, the day the wind blows Zozie de l'Alba into their lives. Zozie with her lollipop shoes and brightly coloured clothes is everything Vianne used to be - but is she really the good friend she purports to be, or are her motives more sinister?

The Lollipop Shoes is another lovely magical tale from Joanne Harris and although carrying on from Chocolat it isn't merely more of the same. The setting has changed - and so has Vianne. Older, wiser and with another child to look after, she's now happy to settle for a comfortable, 'normal' life with steady dependable Thierry. Zozie's arrival stirs up many hopes and dreams which have been hiding beneath the dull façade. The Lollipop Shoes is darker than its predecessor. Zozie is a wonderful two-faced villain, insinuating herself into the family and all too tempting and plausible despite her evil intentions

Chocolat was a novel that I absolutely adored and a very hard act to follow. I wasn't quite sure how much I'd enjoy this sequel - but I did, immensely! I'm now looking forward to a further 'Vianne Rocher' story - Peaches For Monsieur le Curé ( you can read more about this on Joanne Harris' website)

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Random House
Genre - adult fiction

Saturday 7 April 2012

The Goblin and The Girl - Blog Tour

Neil Irani - Author

For today's stop on the blog tour we asked Neil for something about his writing and thinking behind The Goblin and the Girl, which we have already reviewed.

The Goblin and the Girl is about a girl who lacks confidence. This is new writing territory for me as I've always written more in general for boys as I am used to running my ideas past my son and his friends!

I find that most books in the book shops/online are very high on brightness, sometimes good at humour, and generally quite lacking in getting a useful message across to the child to whom the book is being read.

I try to write stories with messages, hopefully The Goblin and the Girl will do this.

Finding the right illustrator for this was difficult. After trying various agencies who'd I'd previously met at the Bologna International Children's Book Fair, I switched to Google and found a number of excellent recent graduates who were hungry for good work and full of ideas and feedback themselves.

It's been an exciting journey writing this book.

The follow up is well under way and is called "The Ogre and the Girl" - and is about an external demon rather than an internal one!

Thank you for that Neil, I must  admit to a couple of surprises in there but also feel that the message The Goblin and The Girl carries is a very important one for everyone of us.

Friday 6 April 2012

Red Bull Racing F1 Car 2010 (RB6) Owner's Workshop Manual

Review by The Mole

Well, this must count as unusual non-fiction as I don't ACTUALLY own such a car and I don't suppose many readers of it will. Did I say 'many'? - I think I meant 'any'.

Unlike the "U.S.S. Enterprise Manual (Haynes Owners Workshop Manual)" which must be taken as fiction (By the way, that's on my WANT, WANT, WANT! list) this one is aimed at explaining some of the car principles, the race rules and some of the awesome numbers around which this sport rotates.

 OK this sport isn't 'green' - so accept my apologies for the gratuitous inclusion of this book, but I have always held the engineers that design these cars in some awe. Consistently the governing body brings in rule changes to slow cars down and make the sport a little greener (they really are trying to improve the image of the sport) but these engineers think laterally to try to come up with ways within the rules of making them fast again. This book shows how, over recent years, Red Bull engineers have achieved dominance in the sport by such thinking. This book will not get you a job in the pit lane with RBR and it won't help you strip and rebuild one of these cars, but you will get an insight into how the engineers think about getting the most from the rules.

For true fans of innovative thinking this book is a fantastic find - particularly when found in a pile of birthday presents!

Publisher: J H Haynes & Co Ltd
Genre: Non-Fiction, Awesome reading

Buy Red Bull Racing F1 Car Manual: An Insight into the Technology, Engineering, Maintenance and Operation of the World Championship-winning Red Bull Racing RB6 (Owner's Workshop Manual) from Amazon

Thursday 5 April 2012

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Not My Kind Of Magic
review by Maryom

Jack and Martha are a childless middle-aged couple who've headed off to the Alaskan wilderness in the hope of making a life for themselves far away from the pressures and concerns of their families. Their existence there is very hand to mouth and the future looking bleak and unsustainable but in a rare moment of levity, Martha creates the figure of a small girl out of snow. When a strange half-wild girl starts to visit them, Martha believes she is the snow child come to life.

I'd read lots of rave reviews for The Snow Child here and there on the web so borrowed it from the library but, sadly, it didn't grab me in the way it has others. Sometimes I've found it hard to put into words exactly why I've enjoyed a book so much, but this time I'm finding it difficult to say what didn't appeal.
The story was inspired by an old Russian folk tale - Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden - which was retold by Arthur Ransome as Little Daughter of the Snow, in a collection called Old Peter's Russian Tales. This latter book is owned by Martha and is partly responsible for her belief that her snowgirl has come to life too. Husband Jack takes the more down to earth stance that the child is the daughter of a recently deceased trapper. It was this contradiction at the heart of the novel that I couldn't come to terms with. I'd have happily gone with either option but somehow, having both, felt left in a muddle.
The Snow Child is a nice enough story - just not one to make my 'favourites' list.

Maryom's review - 3 stars
Publisher -
Genre - Adult Fiction, Folk Tales

Buy The Snow Child from Amazon

Other reviews; House With No Name

Wednesday 4 April 2012

The Jelly That Wouldn't Wobble by Angela Mitchell

Don't SHOUT at it!
Review by The Mole

It is Princess Lolly’s 89th birthday party and a glorious jelly is on the menu. However there is a problem: the jelly refuses to wobble!

Everything is tried to make the jelly wobble but everything fails until one little girl pipes up with a suggestion.

With bright and exciting colours, the illustrations by Sarah Horne are fun as the story unfolds.. and what a fun idea, surely ALL jellies wobble.

A great one for reading to a young one and perhaps seeing if they can be made to wobble while you read?

A great book to share.

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

buy The Jelly That Wouldn't Wobble from Amazon

Tuesday 3 April 2012

The Inquisitor by Mark Allen Smith

Sometimes the truth can be torture.
Review by The Mole

Geiger is one of those heroes that you shouldn't like but somehow you do.He has no friends and no emotions and no history. He feels no pain and works like a machine, a machine that uses torture to gain the truth for his clients. He works freelance and clients only come to him through referrals and those referrals are mainly through organised crime. His only acquaintances are Harry his business partner/research assistant and Corley his psychiatrist. Geiger has few rules but one is that he won't work on children and when a client turns up with a child then Geiger's world is about to change forever.

Gripping, fast paced, exciting, edge-of-the seat.. it's all there and I loved it! Some of the violence is pretty graphic but necessary - not in any way gratuitous. I sort of liked Geiger from about page 10 (it's difficult to like a torturer who's good at his work) and ended up rooting for him at the end as I grew to like him more and more and I'm sure you will too. There is one technical issue that authors tend to get wrong and I'm afraid Smith did too and being a technical kind of guy I find that annoys. But having said that, he didn't get it as wrong as I've seen some TV programs get it! Putting that to one side it was a great read and one that had me going back for more.

Thriller readers will love this book I'm sure.

Publisher - Simon and Schuster
Genre - Adult Thriller

 Buy The Inquisitor from Amazon

The Hunger Trace by Edward Hogan

review by Maryom

When David Bryant dies suddenly, his young widow Maggie is left struggling with the running of his wild-life park on an isolated Derbyshire hilltop. Seen by the locals as an outsider she has no one to turn to apart from Louisa, a reclusive falconer living in a cottage on the park who's loved David since she was a teenager and resents Maggie's presence. Maggie also has to cope with Christopher, David's eccentric, possibly autistic, teenage son from a previous marriage who also resents her. Christopher believes he can find the girl of his dreams through internet dating sites. Maggie and Louisa,meanwhile, find themselves vying for the attention of a 'male escort'... Can they all find a way clear of their troubles.

The Hunger Trace is a powerful, emotionally charged novel of people trapped by circumstances, love and their past. Isolated on their hilltop, Maggie, Louisa and Christopher are forced to depend on each other - even if they would rather not. Their actions are mirrored by the park animals which manage to escape only to be rounded up and brought back but also by Louisa's hawks who are drawn back to their handler through hunger rather than affection. Louisa is only a few short steps away from "crazy lady" - she's tied by the dark deep secret shared with David and now spends all her time with her birds, ferocious hunters rather than cute trilling songbirds. Christopher, too, is decidedly strange - moving between childlike in outlook and wise beyond his years

From its surreal opening with a herd of ibex roaming the Derbyshire countryside to an ending with floods of almost biblical proportions this is a novel that pulled me in and held me, waiting and hoping that these characters could find a way to work things out, come to terms with the past and move on. Yet it's difficult to say what exactly hooked me. It's curious that the cover quote comes from Hilary Mantel (OK, she's 'local') but on reflection, I think the story-telling style of The Hunger Trace is similar to that of Wolf Hall. The reader is immediately immersed in the novel's world but nothing remarkable seems to be happening. Time is needed to let the story evolve, for the bigger picture to become clear.

For anyone 'local' as I am, there's the added attraction of guessing the locations. The wild-life park is obviously inspired by Riber near Matlock but its name 'Drum Hill' comes from elsewhere in Derbyshire.

An excellent book from a 'new to me' author and someone I will be watching for in the future. Edward Hogan also has a teen fiction book called "Daylight Saving" which should also make intriguing reading.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Simon & Schuster
Genre - Adult literary fiction,

Buy The Hunger Trace from Amazon

Captured by Neil Cross

A Man With Nothing To Lose
review by Maryom

Kenny Drummond has a brain tumour and is given only weeks to live. In this short time he hopes to put things to rights with the world and make amends to the people he feels he has let down over the years. First on the list is his ex-wife and Kenny quickly moves on to easier matters. The next two are easily found but the fourth, Callie Barton, a girl who befriended him at junior school, proves more elusive. A few years earlier she disappeared - her husband was suspected of involvement but cleared by the police - and no trace of her has been found. Kenny believes the husband knows more than he is admitting and determines to find out what.
With nothing to restrain him just how far will a man with no future go to get what he wants? Kenny is not the only one, though, finding himself in this situation, feeling he's running out of time and options, and prepared to resort to any means.

Having spent several weeks eagerly glued to my TV watching Luther, I was curious to read one of Neil Cross's novels, to see how well his scriptwriting skills made the cross-over.
Dialogue remains a strong point, being used to carry the plot forward but I was totally amazed by his ability to conjure up a scene using very few extremely well chosen words - whether a picnic in the park, hiding out in the attic or the pent-up threat as Kenny confronts Callie's husband.
Although there's both violence and bloodshed in the book neither were over-graphic or stomach-churning but at the same time Cross's sparse, restrained prose sent a chill up the spine. It's a totally gripping read - even when you wish you could turn away and not look.

Now confirmed as a Neil Cross fan - off to find more to read.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Simon & Schuster
Genre - Adult Thriller